Pixel Scroll 10/7/18 They’re Pixelling Scrolls At Buckingham Palace, Christopher Robin Went Down With Alice

(1) R.U.R. BEING SERVED? NPR says “The Robots Are Coming To Las Vegas”. How long will people pay to see a robot arm mix a cocktail, in slow motion and without conversation?

At the Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas, robots are at the front line of room service. “Jett” and “Fetch” are delivery robots, designed to look like dogs, each about three feet high.

They can bring items from the hotel’s cafe right to your room. Among their many capabilities, they can travel alone across the lobby, remotely call for an elevator, and even alert guests when they arrive at their hotel room through an automated phone message.

It’s not just Vdara that’s experimenting with this technology. Other Las Vegas hotels, including the Renaissance Las Vegas, are using automation to cater to customers’ needs. So too was the Mandarin Oriental before changing over to the Waldorf Astoria this summer. And at bars like the Tipsy Robot, it’s the machines that are making the drinks.

(2) VISIT FROM THE DOCTOR. NPR’s Glen Weldon says “‘Doctor Who’ Goes Back To Basics, With A Twist”.

…With her rich Northern accent (the actress was born in Yorkshire), Whittaker’s Doctor isn’t posh or effete — no bow ties or fezzes for her. Instead she radiates pragmatism (if pragmatism is a thing that can radiate) and a decidedly middle-class, we’re-all-in-this-together enthusiasm. At least, she seems to — “The Woman Who Fell To Earth,” like all new-Doctor debut episodes, showed The Doctor still a bit jumbled from the regeneration process, and working to figure out who she is. As for the much ballyhooed change of sex, it merits precisely one quick throwaway exchange (“Why do you call me ma’am?” “Because you’re … a woman?” “I am? Does it suit me?”) before she gets on to the business of saving the day.

…Much time and attention was devoted to setting up our four, then three, companions: Bus driver Graham (Bradley Walsh), police officer Yas (Mandip Gill) and young warehouse worker Ryan (Tosin Cole). Brought together by chance and united by tragedy, the three promise to bring a dynamic to the series we haven’t seen since old-school Who: A team of colleagues with different skill sets. Modern Who has defaulted to “companion nurtures unspoken romantic feelings for The Doctor” so often that this should make a welcome change.

The grounded nature of the episode — The TARDIS is missing in action, forcing The Doctor to improvise a plan in and around greater Sheffield — played to Whittaker’s strengths. Capaldi’s quick-tempered, exasperated headmaster persona is utterly gone, replaced by something warmer and more empathetic. Her Doctor is just as brilliant and other-worldly as ever, but it’s couched in something earthier.

(3) GUFF. Donna Maree Hanson announced that nominations are now open for the Get Up-and-over Fan Fund. The winning GUFF delegate(s) will be attending Worldcon in Dublin in 2019.

Nominations are open from 8 October until 5 December 2018 and candidates will be announced soon after. Voting will then run until 23:59 BST 22 April 2018, with the winner announced online as soon as possible after voting has closed.

Nominations should be sent via email to donnamareehanson at gmail dot com or via post to her address above, or via email to alqua.kun at gmail dot com (postal address on request). The bond can be sent by PayPal to guff2018@ozfanfunds.com or contact Donna for bank transfer details. She will also take cash in person.

The 2019 GUFF Call for Nominations (PDF) includes details and answers to frequently asked questions.

(4) WILSON OBIT. Scott Wilson, who played Hershel Greene over three seasons of hit zombie series The Walking Dead, has died of cancer: “‘The Walking Dead’ Actor Scott Wilson Dead at 76” at Rolling Stone.

Over an acting career that spanned over 50 years and amassed over 80 credits, some of Wilson’s most notable film roles include his turn as Richard Hickock in the 1967 adaptation of In Cold Blood, a murder suspect in In the Heat of the Night, pilot Scott Crossfield in The Right Stuff and as the man who murders Jay Gatsby in the Robert Redford-starring version of The Great Gatsby.

However, Wilson will best be remembered for portraying religious and widowed farm owner Hershel Greene on The Walking Dead, a role he played from 2011 to 2014 before the character was killed off.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 7, 1906 – John L Nanovic, Editor born in Slovakia who emigrated to the U.S.. The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says: “From 1931 he was associated with Street & Smith, for whom he edited The Shadow from 1932 to 1943; and was also involved in developing the figure of Doc Savage for the firm, writing the initial treatment which was published, long afterwards, as Doc Savage, The Supreme Adventurer, and editing the actual journal, Doc Savage Magazine, from 1933 to 1943. He was responsible for the successful choice of Lester Dent as principal author of the series; Dent wrote most of the Doc Savage stories published under the house name Kenneth Robeson .”
  • Born October 7, 1907 – Richard “Shave” Shaver, Writer whose fantasy stories in Amazing Stories, 1944-48, raised one of the most spectacular feuds in early fandom. He began hearing voices, which he believed were real, telling him a bizarre mythos of prehistoric cannibals living in vast underground caves and preying on human beings’ minds by supernatural means. Amazing editor Ray Palmer published the first of these stories, “I Remember Lemuria”, plus more than 20 sequels, and demanded that fans accept these as true fact (which, of course, did not go over well with fans, who eventually engaged in a campaign led by Forest J. Ackerman to get readers to boycott Ziff-Davis magazines and persuade the U.S. Post Office to ban them). After more than 4 years of contentious letters from fans and the associated uproar, management finally banned Shaver from the magazine and Palmer resigned as editor.
  • Born October 7, 1938 – Jane Gallion (Ellern), Writer, Poet, and Fan who was one of the members of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society subgroup The Blackguards, which hosted many parties and tournaments. She edited the fanzines Karuna, Topaze, and Topaze (etc.), contributed to many other fanzines over the years, and was known for her three post-apocalyptic novels which were very early examples of feminist works involving explicit sex.
  • Born October 7, 1942 – Lee Gold, 76, Writer, Editor, Filker, Gamer, and Fan. She became prominent after 1975 as the editor of Alarums and Excursions, a monthly gaming APA for RPG writers which won the Charles S. Roberts Award for Best Amateur Wargame Magazine and the Origins Award three years in a row, and is still going on today. She also published Xenofilkia, a bi-monthly compilation of filk songs, and five issues of the anthology Filker Up. Her professional writing credits in the RPG field include Land of the Rising Sun, Lands of Adventure, GURPS Japan, and Vikings. She and her husband Barry were jointly inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 1997, and were Interfilk guests at Ohio Valley Filk Fest in 2000.
  • Born October 7, 1945 – Hal Gibson Pateshall Colebatch, 73, Lawyer, Journalist, Editor, and Writer from Australia who has written, singly or in collaboration, two novels and at least two dozen shorter pieces set in Larry Niven’s The Man-Kzin Wars series. However, his main body of work is non-genre, including six books of poetry, short stories, and radio dramas and adaptations. His non-fiction books include social commentary, biography and history, and he has published many hundreds of articles and reviews in various news and critical venues.
  • Born October 7, 1950 – Howard Chaykin, 68, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator of comic books. His first major work was for DC Comics drawing “The Price of Pain Ease”, which was an adaptation of Fritz Leiber’s characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, in Sword of Sorcery #1. He illustrated Samuel Delany’s graphic novel Empire, did a comic book adaptation of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination with Byron Preiss, and provided covers for novels by authors such as Roger Zelazny, Fred Saberhagen, and Philip José Farmer. He would illustrate damn near everything else from Batman and Superboy and The Legion of Super-Heroes for DC to Hulk! and Iron-Man for Marvel, but I think his best genre work was his own American Flagg.
  • Born October 7, 1956 – Rick Foss, 62, Historian, Writer, Food Connoisseur, Conrunner, and Fan who has had around a dozen short fiction works published, mostly in Analog, some of which are in his Probability Zero universe. He is also a food writer, maintains a blog of interesting and little-known stories about food and cooking, has published the book Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies about the history of airline food, and has had occasional food-related contributions on File 770. He is a member of LASFS and SCIFI, has worked many Loscons and other conventions, and chaired Loscon Sixteen in 1990. Along with his brother Wolf Foss, he was Fan Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at Windycon 19 in 1992.
  • Born October 7, 1959 – Steven Erikson (Steve Rune Lundin), 59, Archaeologist, Anthropologist, and Writer from Canada. He’s published the ten-volume-and-counting fantasy series Malazan Book of the Fallen as well as associated short fiction, and there are at least two spinoff series in progress or planned now, the Kharkanas Trilogy and Karsa Orlong Trilogy. His works have received World Fantasy and Aurora Award nominations, and he has been Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 2015 World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born October 7, 1975 – Jamie Hector, 43, Actor and Producer who has had recurring roles in Heroes, Heroes: Hard Knox, and Person of Interest, a guest role on Jericho, appearances in the films The Strain and Max Payne, and has done character voices on videogames and animated series including Halo, GTA, and TRON: Uprising.
  • Born October 7, 1979 – Shawn Ashmore, 39, Actor and Producer who is best known to genre fans as Iceman in the X-Men movies and videogames. He appeared in an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater at the age of 12 and had guest roles in Earth: Final Conflict, The (new) Outer Limits, and Smallville, and main roles in the TV series Animorphs and The Following, the perhaps-best-forgotten miniseries Earthsea, the film Solstice, and the videogame/live action hybrid Quantum Break.
  • Born October 7, 1979 – Aaron Ashmore, 39, Actor and Producer who is best known to genre fans as Jimmy Olsen on Smallville. He’s also had main roles in the TV series Warehouse 13, Lost Girl, and XIII: The Series, and guest roles on Fringe, The Listener, and Animorphs, where he played his twin brother Shawn’s double.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • The monster and social media at Off the Mark. (Which monster? Well, I can’t say Frankenstein, because every time I do that somebody shows up to tell me Frankenstein is not the monster, and sometimes I do grow weary….)
  • Lio has a good word about books. (As good a word as you can have in a comic without dialog.)
  • Will the tip in this Monty help pay your way to the next Scottish Worldcon?

(7) NOW, VOYAGER. Engadget speculates that “Voyager 2 probe may be on the edge of interstellar space”.

NASA’s Voyager 2 probe may be close to joining its sibling and entering interstellar space. The vessel has been detecting a five percent increase in cosmic rays since late August, suggesting that it’s close to crossing the heliopause (the edge of the solar wind bubble, aka the heliosphere) and entering the interstellar realm. Voyager 1 saw similar increases in May 2012, so its fellow spacecraft may be in for a repeat.

(8) URBANITY. See a gallery of Jae Cheol Park’s work at My Modern Met: “Incredible Pen Drawings Visualize Futuristic Cities With Densely Detailed Architecture”.

If you’re into sci-fi art, the work of South Korean concept artist Jae Cheol Park (aka Paperblue) might just make it to the top of your favorites list. This artist’s incredible pencil and pen drawings detail imaginary worlds that blend science fiction with fantasy. Futuristic cities appear as expanding, industrial metropolises built upon chaotic layers of construction.

Each monochrome work is hand-sketched with perfect perspective, showing the colossal scale of Park’s architectural structures and his limitless imagination. Buildings seem to be stacked on top of each other, like futuristic slums built on hills that reach as high as skyscrapers. […]

(9) VENOM. Hollywood Reporter: “Why ‘Venom’ Is Dividing Critics and Audiences”.

Subhead: “Ten years of Marvel Studios domination has taught people to expect a certain tone from comic book movies.”

[This story contains spoilers for Venom]

This weekend Sony launches its own cinematic universe with Ruben Fleischer’s Venom. Although the film is making a strong showing at the box office opening weekend, the reviews have been less than approving. The general consensus gathered from reviews for Venom is that the film is a tonal mess, veering wildly from drama, horror, and comedy from scene to scene. That assessment of tone is true, but I remain unconvinced that it makes for a bad movie, and least of all a poor adaptation of the comic book character who made his debut in 1988

.(10) BY TCHAIKOVSKY. Paul Weimer shares another book at Nerds of a Feather: “Mircoreview [book]: Ironclads, by Adrian Tchaikovsky”.

…And then there is Finland.

Long ago, when reading Poul Anderson’s Boat of a Million Years, I was introduced to the idea of how many outsiders thought about Finland. One of the viewpoint characters, showing off his unusual skills to a dark age Dane, is constantly asked if he had learned the strange arts from the Finns. I grasped the idea that Finland to outsiders was a strange, unusual place with people speaking a very different language and customs. The term Scandinavia, for instance, most definitely *excludes* Finland from it’s purview.

The strangeness and wonder of Finland infuses this slim volume. Even as the protagonists fight across the landscape of Sweden to complete their mission, the Finns they encounter (and the hints of the Finland they come from) are treated like an alien land with technology and power that’s a bit off, a bit different than everything else they are used to. There is more than a hint of a Faerieland quality to Finland and the Finns that the author leverages wonderfully into the novel….

(11) FANS WILL SOON BE THROWING UP. Uh, but in a good way — “Star Trek: Discovery Unveiled Your New Spock and He Is Wearing That Beard” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

Fans of Star Trek: Discovery will soon be throwing up their Vulcan salutes as everyone’s favorite sharp-eared space voyager will debut in the forthcoming second season. At New York Comic Con 2018, a new (bearded!) Spock made his first appearance in a trailer for the new season, set to premiere January 17, 2019.

During the panel Ethan Peck, who will play the famous science officer, recalled the audition process: “It was absolutely outrageous. It was a long audition process, and in the beginning I didn’t know what I was reading for. I knew it was for Star Trek and this guy was struggling with emotion and logic. And toward the very end of it I found out who it was and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I can’t believe,’ and I had a panic attack throughout the last meeting with [Executive Director Alex] Kurtzman, and about two days later I was like, ‘You know what, even if it doesn’t go my way, what an incredible experience to brush arms with this character and this world.’ And I got a text message from the casting director, Orly Sitowitz, and she said, ‘Welcome aboard, Mr. Spock.’ I was in such shock I sat down on the corner of the street and I cried for like 15 minutes, I was so overwhelmed and overjoyed. I’ll never forget the moment.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 9/10/18 I Get Scrolled Down, I Pixel Up Again, You’re Never Gonna Click Me Down

(1) MESSAGE FROM THE RESISTANCE. Sometimes you need an inter-dimensional perspective to put things into their proper focus, like what Andrew Paul provides in “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside Nyarlathotep’s Death Cult” at McSweeney’s.

Nyarlathotep is now facing one of the greatest threats in Its presidency so far. I should know, I clock in to kneel at Its feet upon the Altar of Despair every day.

In the year-and-a-half since the Black Pharaoh replaced the Oval Office with a literal blood fountain throne, I’ve watched as the hits keep on coming. The executive cabinet is wracked with scandal, ordinary citizens who signed the cultist oath are making good on their grave pacts, and, of course, the entirety of the country’s water supply is now teeming with pulsating eggs from some kind of inter-dimensional parasite. It’s easy to look at these kinds of headlines, to read these sorts of leaked stories from the desiccated Capitol Hill, and see an unsustainable administration. Rumors of reversal incantations are beginning to make the rounds, and if our Commander-in-Chief is not careful, It could find Itself cast back among the stars beyond the universe. The past few weeks, in particular, have seen our President certainly live up to our campaign slogan “I See All, and It Shall Burn.”…

(2) FOR THE RECORD. On the second night of the 2018 Creative Arts Awards no Emmys were given for works of genre interest, which made it hard to do a post about them….

(3) TREK ON EMMYS. On the Academy’s website you can watch a 12-minute video of Saturday’s “2018 Creative Arts Emmys: Tribute To Star Trek”, introduced by Bill Nye.

Eighty cast and crew members came together as William Shatner accepted the 2018 Governors Award for the Star Trek franchise.

(4) DUBLIN 2019 PROGRAM. Don’t be shy!

(5) DARRELL AWARDS. Nominations are open for the 2019 Darrell Awards in the following categories:

  • Best Midsouth SF/F/H Novel, Novella, or Short Story on a one year basis (works published between November 1, 2017, and October 31, 2018);
  • Best Midsouth SF/F/H Other Media on a two year basis (works that were published or first shown to the public between November 1, 2016, and October 31, 2018); and
  • The Coger Memorial Hall of Fame on an ongoing basis (for works that were not considered during their year of eligibility and were qualified at the time they were published).

Works must be published by October 31st (Halloween) of this year (2018) in order to qualify.  Please see the Rules for the other qualifications.

(6) RECOMMENDATIONS. Bryan Cebulski poses the question “How Do We Establish Speculative Fiction’s LGBTQ+ Canon?” at Tor.com.

Like many SF/F fans across the intersections of LGBTQ+ identities, I’m constantly on the lookout for good fiction that reflects something of my own experience. In seeking lists that recommend or simply catalogue such works, I’ve found many that, while well-intended, tend to mash an enormous body of work together without considering how authors actually deal with the content. This means that quite often, bigoted portrayals are set right next to works that feature positive representation, or else work that is as gay as possible will be set next to work with only the briefest passing mention of “non-normative” sexuality.

This raises some potentially thorny questions: How should we approach the idea of canon, in this particular set of circumstances? What should we look for when we compile lists of LGBTQ+ speculative fiction? What are we compiling for? Do we consider any mention at all? Focus mainly on positive representation? What about historical context and works by authors who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community?

(7) WRITING CLASS HIGHLIGHTS. Connect with Cat Rambo’s livetweeted highlights from last weekend’s classes at the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers:

  • Rachel Swirsky talking about Breaking the Rules: thread starts here.
  • Rachel Swirsky’s Ideas Are Everywhere class: thread starts here.
  • Fran Wilde’s Fantastic Worldbuilding class: thread starts here.

(8) DAVID R. BUNCH. AV Club’s Alex McLevy cheers that “An obscure but enduring science fiction author finally gets his due” in a collection with an introduction by Jeff VanderMeer.

If you’ve read David R. Bunch, there’s a good chance it’s because of Harlan Ellison. The famed author (and renowned grouch of popular culture) selected not one, but two short stories by the little-known writer for his landmark 1967 New Wave sci-fi collection, Dangerous Visions—the only contributor to have more than one piece included. As a result, “Incident In Moderan” and “The Escaping” are where most people’s awareness of Bunch begins—and ends. He published hundreds of short stories in his life, but mostly in small digests, obscure literary magazines, and even fanzines. No definitive bibliography exists; his last published work (a book of poetry) was from 18 years ago, and neither of his two collections of fiction have been in print for decades.

That changes with the publication of Moderan, the latest entry in NYRB Classics’ series, and a fascinating testament to Bunch’s strange talent….

(9) TODAY’S TRIVIA

Andre Delambre, The Fly, 1958 —

“Take television.  What happens?  A string of electrons  –  sound and picture impulses  –  are transmitted through wires into the air.  The TV camera is the disintegrater.  Your set [the reintegrater] unscrambles or integrates the electrons back into pictures and sound…the disintegrator/will completely change life as we know it.  Think what it’ll mean.  Food.  Anything.  Even humans will go through one of these devices.  No need for cars or railways or airplanes, even spaceships. We’ll just set up matter transcieving devices throughout the world, and later the universe.  They will never be a need or famine.  Surpluses can be sent instantaneously at almost no cost anywhere.   Humanity need never fear or want again.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 10, 1993The X-Files premiered

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10 – Thelma J. Shinn, 76. Author of Worlds Within Women, Myth and Mythmaking in Fantastic Literature by Women and Women Shapeshifters: Transforming the Contemporary Novel.
  • Born September 10 — Nancy A. Collins, 59. Ok, I consider her Sonja Blue punk vampire series which ran I think to nearly a baker’s dozen works starting in the early 90s to be one of the best of that genre, easily the equal of the Blade comic series. She also did more than a smattering of short fiction, essays and reviews as well.
  • Born September 10 – Victoria Strauss, 63. An author of nine fantasy novels largely in the Stone and the Way of Arata series. Has written myriad reviews for both print and website venues.
  • Born September 10 – Pat Cadigan, 65. Writer whose work has been described as cyberpunkish. Won a Hugo for “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” in the Novelette category. Garnered the Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novels Synners and Fools.  Tea from an Empty Cup is my favorite work by her.

Pat Cadigan herself celebrated with this post: “The Second Birthday I Wasn’t Supposed To See”.

I wanted to write something profound and wise about life, the universe, all the fish, and everything else. However, when I woke up this morning, the party in my head was already in full swing.

I’m alive! I’m alive! I’m alive! Everybody conga!

Steven H Silver joined in saluting the day at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Pat Cadigan’s ‘New Life for Old’”.

Cadigan won a Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2013 for “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi.,” which has also won a Seiun Award. She had previously won a World Fantasy Award in the Non-Professional category for co-editing the fanzine Shayol with Arnie Fenner. She won two Arthur C. Clarke Awards for her novels Synners and Fools. In 1979, her story “Death from Exposure” won the coveted Balrog Award. In 2006, Cadigan received the third (and most recent) Richard Evans Memorial Prize, given to genre authors who were considered insufficiently recognized for their excellence. Cadigan served as the Toastmaster for MidAmericon II, the 2016 Worldcon in Kansas City.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) HATERS LOSE. Marketing analysts report “Nike sales defy Kaepernick ad campaign backlash”.

Nike sales appear to have increased in the wake of its controversial advertising campaign, using Colin Kaepernick as the face of the brand.

Online sales grew by 31% in the bank holiday weekend after the ad launched, according to researcher Edison Trends.

The rise will confound critics, who encouraged people to destroy Nike goods in protest at the use of Mr Kaepernick.

(14) HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN. These farms look like moon bases: “Are hot springs the future of farming?”

In the centre of the small downtown, on the banks of the San Juan River, sit three conspicuous, geodesic greenhouses, each 42ft (13m) in diameter. They stand in stark contrast to the old-timey buildings on the road above. All will house gardens, but each has a different mission.

(15) AM. Ryan Hollinger puts an intriguing Cold War frame around his video commentary “The Bleakest Sci-Fi World Ever Created: ‘I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream'”.

(16) GET READY TO CLICK. Kevin Canfield, in “The FBI’s Spying On Writers Was Literary Criticism at Its Worst”, in The Daily Beast, is a review of Writers Under Surveillance: The FBI Files.  It only has one paragraph on Ray Bradbury’s FBI file but that paragraph is a doozy!

(17) POWER OF THE MIND. Defense One’s story “It’s Now Possible To Telepathically Communicate with a Drone Swarm” tells how a communication interface directly connected to a human brain can control up to three drones. The serious implications extend well beyond the defense industry to potential help for the locationally challenged as well as those with artificial limbs.

Dann appreciated that the above link was followed in his RSS feed by a Dilbert comic that suggests there are some folks who might be beyond help.

(18) PAYING ATTENTION, In “The stunning artworks made of light”, the BBC reports on an interactive digital museum where each display of chandelieresque lights etc. changes according to the people in the room.

“The museum itself is one artwork,” Takashi Kudo of teamLab tells BBC Culture. The Mori Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless is a 10,000 sq m (107,639 sq ft) digital art space in Tokyo, Japan, where everything is controlled by computers, right down to the electronic tickets. The museum is made up of 60 individual artworks, but as the name, Borderless, suggests, the place is meant to be experienced as a whole, rather than as a series of individual pieces.

Made up of 520 computers and 470 projectors, the museum is inspired by the concept of interactivity and the art responds to movement as visitors walk through the space. In this piece, Forest of Lamps, the lights react to a person’s presence. If there is more than one person in the room, the lights will change based on both of their movements, and the process continues the more people you add. Kudo explains that having multiple people experiencing an artwork at one time, and becoming a part of it, means the experience is enhanced for all.

(19) DOES ANYBODY REALLY KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In a new scientific paper in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (“Universal method for robust detection of circadian state from gene expression”) Dr Rosemary Braun, et al., claim to have developed a new and simpler method to measure a person’s circadian rhythm. The paper is broken down in simpler terms in Popular Science (“This new blood test can figure out what time it is inside your cells”). The existing method requires numerous blood draws so that melatonin in the blood can be measured over time. The new method requires only two blood draws—a number of different markers are measured to determine the level of expression of different genes. Popular Science author Kat Eschner writes:

…To create this test, researchers trained [an] algorithm to look for chemical evidence of about 40 specific genes in the blood samples. They picked those 40 by analyzing a much larger dataset and finding the ones that express at specific times.

According to the research, the algorithm works regardless of whether the patient is sick or well. That’s significant because gene expression—the way your genes activate, prompting the production of chemicals and helping your body to function—is changed by things as simple as how much sleep you get.

…The researchers found something unexpected—the genes that are the best predictors of body clock aren’t all “what we could call the core clock genes,” Braun says. “A lot of them are genes that are related to other biological processes, but they’re regulated by the clock. They’re regulated so tightly by the clock that observing them becomes a good marker for the clock itself.”

(20) BATTLE BOTS. Well, what would you make a battle robot look like? CNET reports that “Kalashnikov battle robot concept looks like a Star Wars AT-ST”. (Maybe they’ll go for the full AT-AT experience next time.)

Kalashnikov Concern, a Russian manufacturer known for the AK-47 assault rifle, is thinking pretty big these days when it comes to new defense machines. The company unveiled a concept for a bipedal battle robot this week and all I can think about are the two-legged AT-STs from Star Wars.

The Kalashnikov creation seems to be solidly in the concept realm right now. It looks like its main job is to just stand there and look cool.

It has a couple of grabby arms and hands reminiscent of the Power Loader suit from Aliens and a large cabin at the top where presumably a human driver would sit to control the machine. It looks a bit top-heavy and not quite as lithe as an AT-ST.

(21) NPR HORROR POLL. “Click If You Dare: 100 Favorite Horror Stories” carries the results of a poll of NPR followers. 7000 responses — over 1000 for King, but many others.

…And this year, we’re celebrating the 200th birthday of one of the most famous scary stories of all time: Frankenstein — so a few months ago, we asked you to nominate your favorite horror novels and stories, and then we assembled an expert panel of judges to take your 7000 nominations and turn them into a final, curated list of 100 spine-tingling favorites for all kinds of readers. Want to scar your children for life? We can help. Want to dig into the dark, slimy roots of horror? We’ve got you covered.

As with our other reader polls, this isn’t meant to be a ranked or comprehensive list — there are a few books you won’t see on it despite their popularity — some didn’t stand the test of time, some just didn’t catch our readers’ interest, and in some cases our judges would prefer you see the movie instead. (So no Jaws, sorry.) And there are a few titles that aren’t strictly horror, but at least have a toe in the dark water, or are commenting about horrific things, so our judges felt they deserved a place on the list.

One thing you won’t see on the list is any work from this year’s judges, Stephen Graham Jones, Ruthanna Emrys, Tananarive Due and Grady Hendrix….

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/18 Space Zamboni!

(1) WHO TO LISTEN TO. Nicholas Whyte enthusiastically reviews four audio Doctor Who stories in “Jenny – the Doctor’s Daughter”.

Big Finish have scored a major coup by persuading Georgia Tennant to return to her brief role as Jenny, the Tenth Doctor’s cloned daughter, for more sfnal adventures across space and time, flanked by Sean Biggerstaff as the innocent but mysterious Noah, and both pursued by Siân Philips (who was Livia in I, Claudius forty years ago) as a vengeful cyborg, the Colt-5000. (Georgia Moffatt, as she then was, had a part in a Big Finish audio back in 2000, when she was only 16.)

 

(2) EVERMORE. Utah’s VR theme park Evermore opens today: “Evermore Park immersive experience from former Disney Imagineer invites you to enter fantasy world”.

Walt Disney Imagineers work diligently to create the most incredible experiences in the world. Sometimes, however, they take their immeasurable talents and create these experiences elsewhere. That’s the case for former Imagineer Josh Shipley.

According to his LinkedIn page, Shipley started with the Walt Disney Company in 1992 and became an Imagineer in 1996. He left Disney Imagineering in 2017 and began working on an immersive new experience park (located in Pleasant Grove, Utah) known as Evermore.

 

(3) ALL YOUR BASE. The Hugo Awards official site now has some very nice photos of the 2018 Hugo Award base created by Sara Felix and Vincent Villafranca, including closeups of the figures, inscriptions, and other details.

(4) STILL TIME TO HELP. A GoFundMe created to help Samanda Jeude is still open for donations. It’s received only a little over $1,000 so far. One of the incentives was a 1986 Hugo Award trophy.

“Helping The Helper -Electrical Eggs”

Science Fiction Fandom lost a long time friend and organizer in January, in the form of Donald (Dea) Cook. He left behind another well-known fan, his wife of over 30 years, Samanda Jeude.  Samanda is best known for establishing the organization Electrical Eggs, the first Disability Access organization in the Science Fiction community. Don was Sam’s sole career. She had polio as an infant, and that was complicated later in life by a couple of strokes. She now resides in a nursing home in Canton, Georgia. We helped to clear out the house to get it sold, and are now selling all of the contents to pay for Samanda’s ongoing care needs. How does any of this involve a Hugo, you might ask, and rightfully so!

Marcia Kelly Illingworth organized the appeal, and says the Hugo will stay in the fannish family, so to speak:

Update #2

The votes are in! The people have spoken! You have voted overwhelmingly to donate the Hugo to Fandom. I think I always knew that you would. Samanda thanks you, and I thank you!

We are leaving the fund open for a while longer for those who still wanted the opportunity to donate. Thank you again for all of your support.

Since donors have voted to donate the Hugo to fandom rather than have it be auctioned off to the highest bidder, that means less money raised for Samanda’s ongoing care. Given her service to fandom, it would be great to see further donations from fans.

(5) HIS PREFERRED WINNER. Nicholas Whyte has one thing in common with all Hugo voters – he thinks sometimes the wrong book loses — in this case, “Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson”.

Second paragraph of third chapter:

But there are worse places to live. There are much worse places right here in this U-Stor-It. Only the big units like this one have their own doors. Most of them are accessed via a communal loading dock that leads to a maze of wide corrugated-steel hallways and freight elevators. These are slum housing, 5-by-10s and 10-by-10s where Yanoama tribespersons cook beans and parboil fistfuls of coca leaves over heaps of burning lottery tickets.

This popped to the top of one of my lists just at the moment that I have been reading some of the other award winners from 1994. Snow Crash was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (won by Jeff Noon’s Vurt) and the BSFA Award (won by Christopher Evans’ The Aztec Century); also on both of those shortlists was Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, which won the Tiptree. The Hugo for Best Novel was shared between A Fire On The Deep and Doomsday Book, the latter winning the Nebula as well; Snow Crash was on the Hugo long-list, but nowhere for the Nebula. (It did win two awards in French translation, and one in Spanish.)

This is surely one of those cases where the awards in general (and particularly across the Atlantic) failed to spot the classic in the making: Snow Crash now has more owners on LibraryThing than any two of the other books named above combined (which is why I read it; see below). I think it’s much the best of them.

(6) YOUR DIGITAL GOOD PLACE. Courtesy of io9, (“Google Chrome Has a Forking Clever Good Place Extension”) I learned about Google Chrome’s The Good Place extension:

Replace new tab page with a personalized dashboard that brings your very own version of The Good Place right to your desktop.

Calling all Good Place fans! Make The Good Place your Chrome home with an all-new tab page that features your favorite characters, quotes and photos from the show. Complete with weather updates, calendar reminders, and daily “inspiration” from Eleanor and the crew, you can become more productive and feel like you’re getting into The Good Place every single time you go online.

FEATURES:

-Replace curse words from your Chrome with the Obscenities Censor

-Search the web using your very own Janet

-Pry yourself away from the internet with the “Joy of Missing Out” built-in break reminders

-Replace “Thumbs up” and “Thumbs down” buttons on YouTube with “Good Place” and “Bad Place”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966  — A little TV show, Star Trek, aired its first episode, “The Man Trap,” written by George Clayton Johnson.

And earlier this week The Hollywood Reporter reprinted the show creator’s article about his new series: “When Gene Roddenberry Explained ‘Star Trek’ in 1966”.

Just over two months after Star Trek first beamed up to audiences on NBC during the 8:30 p.m. hour on Sept. 8, 1966, creator Gene Roddenberry wrote a column explaining the scope of his ambitious space series — and why it aimed for much more “science” than “fiction.” His original column in The Hollywood Reporter, “Science Fiction Thing of Past,” is below: 

Imagine a space vessel, larger than any naval vessel known, crossing our galaxy at a velocity surpassing the speed of light. Fourteen decks, a crew of over 430 persons. A whole city afloat in space.

Science fiction? Absolutely not. Rather, real adventure in tomorrow’s space. Based upon the best scientific knowledge and estimates of what our astronauts of the future may face when they move out of our own solar system and into the vastness of our galaxy. Other worlds like ours? Other peoples? What?

Our starship, designed with the help of space experts, is the United Space Ship Enterprise. The place — NBC-TV, Thursday nights. In full color, this new action-adventure format boasts flesh and blood stars like talented William Shatner playing Ship’s Captain Kirk; love Grace Lee Whitney playing Yeoman Janice Rand; and Leonard Nimoy in an unusual new role as the half-alien Mister Spock. Plus talents such as DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Jimmy Doohan and Nichelle Nichols.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8 – John Boardman, 85. Editor, fanzine Knowable; his Diplomacy zine, Graustark turned fifty a few years ago. Active in civil rights as a student as Florida State University which got him expelled from his doctoral studies program there.
  • Born September 8 – Michael Hague, 70. Illustrator of his own work including The Book of Dragons, Michael Hague’s Magical World of Unicorns,  The Book of Fairies, The Book of Wizards and Michael Hague’s Read-to-Me Book of Fairy Tales; also interior and cover art for such genre works as The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz and The Wind in The Willows. 
  • Born September 8 – Gordon Van Gelder, 54. Editor, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The New York Review of Science Fiction and a smattering of anthologies including Go Forth and Multiply and Welcome to the Greenhouse. Reviewer as well.
  • Born September 8 – Matt Ruff, 53. Author of quite a number of genre novels including Fool on The Hill, Lovecraft Country which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, and Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls which may or may not be genre fiction but never-the-less won a James Tiptree Jr. Award.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cutting-edge humor: Bizarro
  • Copernicus’ theory of SJW credentials: Free Range.
  • They’re not phoning home: Bliss

(10) GAP IN EXHIBIT. Holly Ordway, in “The Maker of the Maker of Middle-earth” at Christianity Today, reviews the Bodleian Tolkien exhibit and examines why it says little about Tolkien’s strong religious faith.

…There are many ways that Tolkien’s Christian faith could have been represented, even in the relatively limited space available. One item already on display was a 1914 letter to Edith. The display label transcribes, from Tolkien’s small and difficult-to-read handwriting, a paragraph about officer-training maneuvers on Port Meadow.

Immediately following this portion of the original letter is Tolkien’s comment that the next day “I got up at 7.40 and just reached church on time, and went to Communion.” Just one more sentence on an already existing display label would have given a glimpse of Tolkien’s faith in practice. As it is, nearly all visitors will miss this reference entirely; I very nearly did.

Other extracts from letters could have been shown, such as the 1956 letter in which Tolkien relates Frodo’s failure to give up the Ring to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Or perhaps the 1944 letter in which Tolkien discusses modern healing miracles and describes the Resurrection as the “happy ending” of human history.

Several examples of his Elvish calligraphy were displayed; one could have been selected from the prayers that Tolkien translated into Elvish, such as the Lord’s Prayer. Both the 1956 letter and this translation show the way that Tolkien’s faith, and indeed specifically his prayer life, had an influence on his writing—exactly the kind of influence we would hope to see emphasized in an exhibit on an author.

…These references, if they had been included, need not have been emphasized, but for one who knows of Tolkien’s faith, the absence of any such small detail is striking.

Playing It Safe

Why might the Tolkien Estate and the Bodleian have chosen to downplay Tolkien’s faith? And why does it matter? …

(11) FUTURE FICTION AUTHOR. Listen to “Nexhuman, an interview with Francesco Verso” conducted by Filer Mlex at Yunchtime.

In this free-form interview, Francesco Verso, explores the topics of transhumanism, consumer culture, and the philosophical aspects of Nexhuman. He also discusses his work in the context of English language publications and the emergence of global voices in Science Fiction, including his own anthology, called Future Fiction, which was co-edited by Bill Campbell and published by Rosarium Press.

(12) NZ NATCON REPORT. SF Concatenation has posted a report on the New Zealand national sf convention by Lee Murray (with an assist from Simon Litten) — “Conclave III”. The convention was held the weekend of March 30-April 2, 2018 in Auckland.

Then we were on to Norman Cates’ WETA presentation to get the skinny on all the new techniques making our movie viewing epic. As is customary with Norman’s presentation, I could tell you about all the wonderful clips he showed us, but then I’d have to kill you, or Norman would, or WETA’s lawyers would have to engage a hitman. In any case, it was cool.

Next up, was the Other Voices panel, moderated by Stephen Litten, where we were joined by Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body author Simon Petrie and Indiana fantasy writer, Laura VanArendonk Baugh. It’s a lively discussion, with some great insights from my fellow panellists around the definition ‘other’ and the value of including marginalised and foreign-to-us voices on our reading lists. We discussed the vagaries of translation and the layering of culture that occurs when works are translated by a second voice. We touched on appropriation and the discourse surrounding Aboriginal and Maori mythologies. Panellists and audience members raised some seminal works from other cultures, including French, Italian, Japanese titles, which we all felt should be included on our must-read lists.

(13) UNKEPT ROBOTIC PROMISES. On Gizmodo, Matt Novak lists (and links) “99 Things That Robots Were Supposed to Be Doing by Now” (though many of the linked “predictions” aren’t really “by now”).

Below is a list of just some of the things people of the past said robots would do in the near future. Many of them are fun or weird, while others are downright scary. But they’re all still “futuristic.” For now.

  1. Robots were supposed to replace school teachers.
  2. Robots were supposed to be professional boxers.
  3. Robots were supposed to pay taxes.

[…]

  1. Robots were supposed to pull off their heads and become the sickest drum set you’ve ever seen.
  2. And by 2076, robots were supposed to run for president.

(14) WINTER IS COMING FOR AI, MAYBE. Popular Science looks at the idea that Artificial Intelligence may — once again — be overhyped, which could lead to a collapse in research/support (“Another AI winter could usher in a dark period for artificial intelligence”).

Artificial intelligence can take many forms. But it’s roughly defined as a computer system capable of tackling human tasks like sensory perception and decision-making. Since its earliest days, AI has fallen prey to cycles of extreme hype—and subsequent collapse. While recent technological advances may finally put an end to this boom-and-bust pattern, cheekily termed an “AI winter,” some scientists remain convinced winter is coming again.

The article goes on to discuss the first “winter” that occurred during the early Cold War when natural language translation proved to be a much more difficult task that anticipated and another beginning in the 70s/80s when the Lisp machine didn’t live up to its hype as an AI solution. Author Eleanor Cummins expresses concern that, among other things, self-driving cars are over-promised and may be under-delivered, then concludes that:

Much like actual seasonal shifts, AI winters are hard to predict. What’s more, the intensity [of] each event can vary widely. Excitement is necessary for emerging technologies to make inroads, but it’s clear the only way to prevent a blizzard is calculated silence—and a lot of hard work. As Facebook’s former AI director Yann LeCun told IEEE Spectrum, “AI has gone through a number of AI winters because people claimed things they couldn’t deliver.”

(15) AI PRIORITY. DARPA doesn’t seem worried by that weather forecast: “DARPA announces $2B investment in AI”.

At a symposium in Washington DC on Friday, DARPA announced plans to invest $2 billion in artificial intelligence research over the next five years.

In a program called “AI Next,” the agency now has over 20 programs currently in the works and will focus on “enhancing the security and resiliency of machine learning and AI technologies, reducing power, data, performance inefficiencies and [exploring] ‘explainability’” of these systems.

“Machines lack contextual reasoning capabilities, and their training must cover every eventuality, which is not only costly, but ultimately impossible,” said director Dr. Steven Walker. “We want to explore how machines can acquire human-like communication and reasoning capabilities, with the ability to recognize new situations and environments and adapt to them.”

(16) FOUNDATION ORDERED. Ars Technica says that, “Apple confirms TV series order of Asimov’s Foundation” for their nascent streaming service.

In April, we reported that Apple was working on developing a TV series based on Isaac Asimov’s highly influential Foundation series of science fiction novels. Today, Ars has confirmed not only that Foundation was in development, but it has now been given a full series order—meaning we’re definitely going to see it.

As previously reported, David Goyer (screenwriter for The Dark Knight and Batman Begins) and Josh Friedman (creator of the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and screenwriter for Steven Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds film) will be the showrunners and executive producers. The series is being produced by Skydance Television, and Skydance CEO David Ellison will be an executive producer for the series (he is the son of famed Oracle executive Larry Ellison). Isaac Asimov’s daughter, Robyn Asimov, will also executive produce, along with Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross.

(17) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE…UHH. NPR says this wouldn’t be news if anyone besides photographers had been paying attention: “Scientists Are Puzzled By Mysterious Lights In The Sky. They Call Them STEVE”.

There’s a light in the night sky over Canada that’s puzzling scientists. It looks like a white-purple ribbon. It’s very hot, and doesn’t last long. And it’s named STEVE.

STEVE: as in, Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

Naturally.

Scientists don’t actually know what’s causing the atmospheric phenomenon, which has been known to amateur photographers of the night sky for decades but only recently came to the attention of researchers.

But in research published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, they pin down what it definitely isn’t. It’s not an aurora….

(18) HYBRID HUMAN. Nature reports: “Mum’s a Neanderthal, Dad’s a Denisovan: First discovery of an ancient-human hybrid”

Genetic analysis uncovers a direct descendant of two different groups of early humans.

A female who died around 90,000 years ago was half Neanderthal and half Denisovan, according to genome analysis of a bone discovered in a Siberian cave. This is the first time scientists have identified an ancient individual whose parents belonged to distinct human groups….

(19) BEFORE MARVEL WAS A SURE THING. Looper has a roster of Marvel TV Shows You Completely Forgot About. Or in my case, never heard of to begin with….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/2/18 Where Late The Sweet Pixels Scrolled

(1) F&SF. Gordon Van Gelder has unveiled the cover for F&SF’s Sept/Oct. 2018 issue. The cover art is by Michael Garland.

(2) SPINER BECOMES A SUPER VP. ScienceFiction.com has the results — “Data From Polling Numbers Are In: Brent Spiner Elected To Join ‘Supergirl’”.

Brent Spiner (‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’,’Independance Day’) has just been elected by the casting department of The CW’s ‘Supergirl‘ to join the show. His role? Vice President of the United States! That’s right folks, in the fourth season of ‘Supergirl’ were going to have Spiner joining the cast as a regular to work with Lynda Carter (‘Wonder Woman’) who is the President of the United States.

I suspect that she won’t be staying in the Oval Office for long though as Spiner’s role is being described as:

Adept and politically minded, Vice President Baker makes for an unlikely leader but steps up in a big way when his country needs him most

(3) ROGUE AGENT. Publishers Weekly listens as “Agent Danielle Smith’s Former Clients Speak Out”. Quite a bit of material here.

The children’s book publishing world has been roiling for the past week over the disclosure that Danielle Smith, the principal of Lupine Grove Creative, an agency specializing in children’s and YA authors, acted more like a literary grifter than a literary agent. Since Smith emailed a letter to her clients on July 24, confessing that recently she had “not handled a situation as well as I should have” and thus was dissolving the agency effective immediately, 19 former clients have reached out to PW, sharing tales of a pattern of malfeasance that has shaken their confidence and adversely affected their careers.

According to some former clients, she claimed to have had offers in hand that didn’t exist, such as, one author requesting anonymity disclosed, a $50,000 two-book deal. She informed others that editors had expressed interest in their submissions, but subsequently told them that either the editors had then lost interest or had outright rejected those submissions. Clients also complained about Smith’s refusal to communicate with them honestly and in a timely fashion, as well as the lack of transparency, including a reluctance to render submission lists to them upon request. Several clients allege that she even forged emails from editors and passed this correspondence along to them.

(4) CALL FOR EISNER IMPROVEMENTS. Each award has and needs its critics. In “Comic-Con’s Eisner Judging and the New ‘Comics & Design Awards’” Michael Dooley of printmag.com pinpoints some shortcomings and workarounds he’s identified.

…Every year, Comic-Con International’s awards committee assembles a panel of a half-dozen or so judges. Each bring a unique interest, perspective, and expertise: creator, scholar, critic/reviewer, retailer, librarian, and a Comic-Con rep. Together, they critically winnow down an enormous amount of published material to arrive at a small handful under each category. CalState Northridge professor Charles Hatfield, who was part of the selection committee a few years ago, has described the process as “like going to Comics Heaven—if Heaven is a place where you work really hard, fence with a table full of smart, demanding, and dedicated people, and learn something about your own biases in the process.” He was also pleased to learn what he describes as “the importance of voting past my prejudices.” Now there’s an attribute that’s practically nonexistent among the voters.

Diligence and dedication such as this is why anyone in search of recommend reading should check out all the nominees in all categories of interest. You also might jump to Wonder Women of the Eisner Awards, my feature from last year that included several judges’ choices who didn’t bring home a trophy but who are nevertheless not to be overlooked. However, locating worthwhile info on these artists and publications is much easier said than done. You can’t rely on the official site; its design is a frightful mess, and very difficult to navigate quickly and efficiently. Plus, its page of nominees is merely a basic bullet point listing….

(5) OPEN THE GARAGE BAY DOOR SAL. Adweek shows how an insurer is capitalizing on the latest high-tech fears: “See a Smart Home Go Rogue in New State Farm Campaign”.

In the ad an unnerved husband, Dave, recounts to State Farm agent Amy all the ways SAL has been majorly unhelpful, including closing the garage door on their car, turning on the in-home sprinklers, and erroneously blasting The Ring instead of the requested music. Amy assures Dave that while State Farm can’t fix SAL, they can certainly cover the home and auto damages. For anyone who has ever had to angrily repeat a simple question for Siri syllable-by-syllable, this scenario feels all too plausible. Truly, we could all use an Amy to assure us during our more frustrating brushes with technology that everything will be fine.

 

(6) CONTESTED GROUND. In Luke Shelton’s reading of Lord of the Rings, “Caradhras Changes Everything”.

I have always had inordinately strong opinions about the passage about Caradhras. In fact, it was changes made to this episode that made me shout “no!” when I went to see Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Rings in theaters.

I was familiar with other literature that gave a sense of autonomy to nature before I read LotR, and I was excited to see that Tolkien does the same throughout the text, even before getting to the fully autonomous Treebeard. As a child, I loved the idea that trees could have volition and emotions. Tolkien takes this wondrous idea and pushes it one step further in the Caradhras episode. As the snows on Caradhras foil the attempt of the Fellowship to pass over the mountain, this exchange occurs…

Here Boromir tries to attribute the malevolent weather to Sauron or one of his agent; however, but Aragorn and Gimli are quick to halt this impulse and clarify that there are other forces at play in the world. Gimli goes so far as to specify that the will is probably that of Caradhras himself.

I cannot emphasize this enough: this passage changed my worldview the first time I read it. To ascribe volition to not just plants, but to all of nature, to the very earth itself! This was a truly awe-inspiring thought for me. I remember walking around for days thinking about the ramifications of this idea. What does it mean to till an earth that could feel the cuts? What does it mean to dynamite a mountain that can fight back?

(7) WOTF ADDS FIRST READER. Kary English comes aboard — “Writers of the Future Announces Kary English as New First Reader”.

Over its 34 year history, the Contest has recognized 404 winners who have gone on to publish 1,150 novels and 4,450 short stories. Of these, 192 are still active with a writing career—that’s over 40%. Twelve of these Contest winners have gone on to become NYT bestselling authors: Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland), Sean Williams, Jo Beverly, Nancy Farmer, Lisa Smedman, Karen Joy Fowler, Patrick Rothfuss, Tim Myers, Eric Flint, Dean Wesley Smith, Tobias Buckell and Elizabeth Wein. And Contest Winners have garnered 155 major awards. Collectively, the winners of the contests have sold over 60 million books over the years.

And with the last 4 volumes of Writers of the Future hitting national bestseller lists—and each of the winners becoming national bestselling authors and illustrators as a result—contest entries continue to increase each quarter with entries from around the world.

Dave Wolverton, himself a Writers of the Future winner from the 3rd year of the contest, is the Coordinating Judge for the Writer Contest and was asked to help in the selection of a 1st reader to keep pace with the expansion. “Obviously, I’ve had a number of amazing authors that I’ve helped mentor over the years, and so when I considered who I might ask to help out as a first reader, I really suffered from an embarrassment of riches. A dozen names almost instantly leapt to mind, but Kary English was right near the top.

He continued, “I wanted someone with a great eye for style, someone who understood storytelling well. Kary, as an award-winning author, has proven over and over to have a great eye, but more than that, her strong support for and commitment to helping new authors spoke volumes….”

(8) 1970S SFF HISTORY. In “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part X”, James Davis Nicoll winds up his Tor.com series with a segment covering “T” to the end of the alphabet —

Alison Tellure had a very small but very memorable body of work. “Lord of All it Surveys,” “Skysinger,” “Green-Eyed Lady, Laughing Lady,” and “Low Midnight” are all set on an alien world dominated by a single, vast, godlike creature. Existence there is complicated by the presence of competing, considerably tinier beings not entirely unlike humans. Contributors over on my blog, More Words, Deeper Hole, dug up biographical details from old Analog Biologs and con appearances, but the exchange raised more questions than it answered. As far as I know, Tellure never had a single author collection, but readers might be able to track down the June 1977 issue of Analog, which contains “Lord of All it Surveys.”

(9) THE MAGIC NUMBER. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog hails “5 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Spoofs That Stand on Their Own”. For example —

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, by A. Lee Martinez
Sometimes, having a fairy godmother really backfires. That is certainly the case for Constance Verity, blessed with (cursed by?) a life of being the world’s greatest adventurer. She’s got a history of adventuring filled with just about every genre trope and cliché you could imagine, and she’s on a mission to end it—by killing that darned godmother. This final quest puts the idea of destiny—and the monomyth—into its crosshairs with a wink and an absurdist sense of humor—Martinez’ specialties.

(10) GRINDSTAFF OBIT. Classic Trek had a sound as well as a look because of creators like him: ComicBook.com has the story — “Doug Grindstaff, Creator of Iconic Sounds of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 87”.

Grindstaff worked with Jack Finlay and Joseph Sorokin on Star Trek. Together they created the background sounds for the iconic series, including the iconic red alert klaxon and the sound the doors make when they slide open. They also developed the sounds of space battle in the Star Trek universe, transporter materialization, and sickbay scanners.

In a 2016 interview with Audible Range, Grindstaff discussed working with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

“And he wanted sounds everywhere. One time I asked him, ‘Don’t you think we’re getting too cartoony?’ Because I felt it should be a little more dignified, but he wanted sound for everything. For example, I worked on one scene where [Dr. McCoy] is giving someone a shot. Gene says, ‘Doug, I’m missing one thing. The doctor injects him and I don’t hear the shot.’ I said, ‘You wouldn’t hear a shot, Gene.’ He said, ‘No, no, this is Star Trek, we want a sound for it.’

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 2 — Edward Furlong, 41. John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment DayPet Sematary II (Cat Eldridge notes, “Courtesy of knowing the on-site medics, I visited the props room fort he original Pet Sematary — weird seeing actual props of dead people and lots of pets managed horribly”), various Terminator shorts, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, and Star Trek: Renegades (“…which I think is fanfic.”)
  • Born August 2 — Sam Worthington, 42. Avatar film franchise, Clash of The Titans and its sequel Wrath Of The Titans, and The Titan, a space exploration film that may or may be a horror film.
  • Born August 2 — Simon Kinberg, 45. Genre director for a very long list of projects including the forthcoming Logan’s Run, an X-Men one-off called Multiple Man, the Boba Fett project, The Martian, the Legion series, and the animated Star Wars: Rebels series. Also the writer for another X-Men one-off titled  X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
  • Born August 2 — Jacinda Barrett, 46. Genre roles include series work in Campfire TalesZero Hour, Millennium, NightMan and Hercules: The Legendary Journey.
  • Born August 2 — Matthew Del Negro, 46. Genre roles in Teen WolfStargate: Atlantis and Eastwick series, horror films such as Ghost Image and Trailer Park of Terror.
  • Born August 2 — Kevin Smith, 48. Well-loved comics writer with work for DC, Marvel and other venues with work on both Daredevil  Green Arrow. He directed the pilot for the CW supernatural comedy series Reaper, produced and appeared in reality television series Comic Book Men, and appeared as a character in the animated Superman: Doomsday as a commentary on a Superman unused script he wrote.
  • Born August 2 — Mary-Louise Parker, 54. Genre roles are the R.I.P.D. fil, The Spiderwyck Chronicles and Persephone, a generation ship film that may or may not happen.

(12) TRUE CONFESSION. JY Yang shares a writing crisis —

(13) IN THE ISS LIBRARY. The Independent has “The Book List: What do astronauts read on the International Space Station?” Plenty of sff, including 11 Bujold novels and 13 David Weber books.

The astronauts on the International Space Station are obviously busy people, but even busy people need some time to relax and unwind. In addition to a well-stocked film library (particularly strong on movies with a space theme, including 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gravity), there are also plenty of books in their informal library.

Some are brought up by the astronauts – Susan Helms was allowed ten paperbacks and chose Gone With the Wind, Vanity Fair and War and Peace in her carryon. Others come with space tourists such as billionaire businessman Charles? Simonyi, who brought Faust and Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

(14) ROT-180. Bounding Into Comics analyzed a sly slam against JDA — “Nasty Personal Attack Against Jon Del Arroz Appears in Dynamite Comics and Atari’s ‘Centipede’ Comic” [Internet Archive link].

Comic book writer and the lead singer of Say Anything Max Bemis, artist Eoin Marron, and letterer Taylor Esposito decided to use Atari’s Centipede intellectual property in a Dynamite Comics published book to attack fellow comic book writer Jon Del Arroz.

What’s supposed to be a balloon full of alien gibberish becomes all too easy to understand if you turn it upside-down.

In Centipede #4, which was published on October 25, 2017, Bemis writes, “Jon Del Arroz is a never was fat piece of sh**who blames everyone but himself for his ineptness.”

As you can tell Bemis and letterer Taylor Esposito tried to disguise the personal attack through an alien language. Not only did they disguise it as an alien language they also inverted it.

We’ve inverted the image so you can read it better.

Several more examples from the same comic are at the post.

JDA accepted the publisher’s statement that they knew nothing about it, securing an apology and some publicity in compensation — “Official Statement On The Personal Attacks In Dynamite Entertainment’s Centipede Book” [Internet Archive link].

Last night I discovered that a print book of Atari’s Centipede property referenced me in multiple places by name in an effort to defame and diminish me as a comic creator and a human being….

However, I have been in contact with Dynamite Entertainment, who apologized themselves and said they were unaware of the situation and that it slipped past editorial by mistake. They also say it’s been corrected for the trade paperback edition. They also very cordially said they would support my Flying Sparks indiegogo effort as I’m trying to launch my own comic career.

I believe them.

It would have been very easy for Dynamite to ignore me and to let this go, but they in their quick response and quick taking action to remedy this are doing the right thing. The company was hoodwinked by a rogue contractor who has lost the trust of the entire industry by inserting personal animus into a book, and saying the most horrific things about a fellow creator. They understand this, they are doing what they can to make it right even though the hurtful damage has been done.

I do not want my fans and followers to boycott Dynamite or take any action to try to harm them. As I said, the company has been consummate professionals to me and I appreciate their efforts they’re going to to make this right….

(15) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. Rosemary Benton considers “[August 2, 1963] Sinister Geometry (Daniel F. Galouye’s Lords of the Psychon)” at Galactic Journey.

But what if the shift in humanity’s daily life is beyond explanation, bordering on paranormal? And what if the alien force that is bringing about that change is so far removed from known biology that it appears extra-dimensional? Daniel F. Galouye’s new book, Lords of the Psychon, takes the reader to that terrifying reality with an invader that is unnervingly simple – a large, floating, metallic sphere – and their mission which can be surmised as absorbing compatible human minds and letting the rest die in the grip of mind shredding madness.

(16) ON THE ROAD. They came, they saw, they rocked? “First Stonehenge residents came from west Wales”. Isotopes identify oldest cremains as coming from same area as the stones themselves. No explanation for the unusual eastward movement.

… While it is already known that the “bluestones” that were first used to build Stonehenge were transported from 150 miles (240 km) away in modern-day Pembrokeshire, almost nothing is known about the people involved.

The scientists’ work shows that both people and materials were moving between the regions and that, for some of these people, the move was permanent.

When their lives ended, their cremated remains were placed under the ancient monument in what is now Wiltshire. …

However, Dr Rick Schulting, senior author on the study, said: “These must have been important people. Being buried at Stonehenge is the ancient equivalent of being interred in Westminster Cathedral today.”

He said: “The evidence suggests that some of the people buried at Stonehenge must have spent much of their last 10 or so years in Wales. Although we tend to think that immigration is a new thing, these people were obviously able to travel substantial distances across difficult terrain.”

(17) SLIP SLIDING AWAY. BBC knows “How Greenland scorched its underside”. All of Greenland slid over the hotspot that later created and is now augmenting Iceland.

It’s like the underside of the island got a good roasting in the distant past and still has the big scar to prove it.

That hotspot, by the way, is the one which today is building Iceland in the middle of the North Atlantic.

The plume of broiling rock rising from deep inside the Earth has broken through the thin ocean floor at Iceland’s location and is now creating new land with regular eruptions of lava.

(18) A THOUSAND AND ONE FLAVORS. “The world’s oldest ice cream?” The BBC video feature says Iran had ice storage to make chilled treats over 2000 years ago.

(19) ROBOTS IN THE MUSEUM. The Robot Show is on display at the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, California from August 4 through September 26.

The Robot Show is comprised of eight exhibitions exploring the place robots, and other forms of artificial intelligence, have in a contemporary social landscape – from popular culture to nature and spirituality. Featured in the Main Gallery at MOAH is a retrospective of Emmy-nominated artist and animator, Dave Pressler. The Robot Show also showcases the solo exhibitions of Jeff Soto, Patrick McGilligan, Robert Nelson and Karen Hochman Brown, with site specific installations by artists Cristopher Cichocki, Alexander Kritselis, and Chenhung Chen.

Dave Pressler’s 20-year retrospective, Idea to Object, is a narrative of his career, which focuses on how he made his ideas a reality. Pressler’s robots are fixtures in popular culture and he is best known for his Emmy-nominated Nickelodeon series, Robot and Monster.  “Pressler’s work appeals to audiences of all ages,” says Andi Campognone, Curator at MOAH. “His work is a great example of the combination of strong contemporary concepts and expert craft, and we are so excited to exhibit his work for both the Lancaster and greater Los Angeles communities.”

Jeff Soto, in the East Gallery, is a pop-surrealist who also features robots prominently in his bold paintings and murals, which are meant to evoke nostalgia and the natural environment. In the South Gallery, Cristopher Cichocki furthers this connection between the artificial and the natural with his newest body of work, Divisions of Land and Sea, which combines audiovisual performance and black light painting into an immersive environment. Karen Hochman Brown’s digital photographic compositions will be highlighted in the North Gallery joining Robert Nelson’s robot paintings in the Wells Fargo Gallery along with Patrick McGilligan’s work in the Museum’s lobby and atrium. Alexander Kritselis will feature one of his multimedia installations in windows of the Museum’s Hernando and Fran Marroquin Family Classroom. Rounding out this exhibition is Chenhung Chen, a Los Angeles-based artist, who will be installing her technology-based towers in the Vault Gallery.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 7/28/18 Error 770 Pixel Not Scrolled

(1) HUGO VOTING CLOSES JULY 31. Worldcon 76 sent members a reminder earlier in the week:

Voting for both will end on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 11:59 PM PDT.  Online voting forms and Voter Packet downloads for both sets of awards are located on the Worldcon 76 website. The 2018 ballot can be found at https://www.worldcon76.org/hugo/vote.php and the 1943 ballot can be found at https://www.worldcon76.org/hugo/retro_vote.php.

(2) SHAKEN, NOT BEAMED UP. This is not my father’s Popular Mechanics, full of fannish esoterica like “Ten Forward Vodka Is What Riker Puts in His Martini”.

The next time you want to grab a vesper martini with a Vulcan or pour yourself a holodeck Harvey Wallbanger, reach for a bottle of Ten Forward. That’s right: There is now an officially licensed Star Trek: The Next Generation vodka made by Silver Screen Bottling Company and named for Guinan’s bar on the USS Enterprise-D.

The best thing about this novelty booze is clearly the bottle. Its type and graphics are an homage to the LCARS computer system seen on all the terminals and pads used throughout the show.

(3) AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH. BBC does a word study: “Tsundoku: The art of buying books and never reading them”.

Do you have a habit of picking up books that you never quite get around to reading?

If this sounds like you, you might be unwittingly engaging in tsundoku – a Japanese term used to describe a person who owns a lot of unread literature….

The word “doku” can be used as a verb to mean “reading”. According to Prof Gerstle, the “tsun” in “tsundoku” originates in “tsumu” – a word meaning “to pile up”.

So when put together, “tsundoku” has the meaning of buying reading material and piling it up.

“The phrase ‘tsundoku sensei’ appears in text from 1879 according to the writer Mori Senzo,” Prof Gerstle explained. “Which is likely to be satirical, about a teacher who has lots of books but doesn’t read them.”

While this might sound like tsundoku is being used as an insult, Prof Gerstle said the word does not carry any stigma in Japan.

(4) AMAZON’S AMBITIOUS GENRE TV PLANS. SYFY Wire has published a story (“Star Trek 4 Writers to Helm Lord of the Rings TV Series and More from Amazon Studios”) with a variety of news from Amazon about upcoming genre shows. The headline news is that “writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay [who wrote the upcoming 4th Star Trek movie] will oversee the Lord of the Rings TV series” which is expected to air no sooner than 2020. The series will be set in a time prior to the events of the LorR books (and movies) but little other details has been annoiunced by the studio. Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke has said “It’s a vast world and so many ways to go with that property. We brought in so many people with abundant enthusiasm for the property. They will move us into the the next stage as they build out this world.”

The SYFY Wire story also brings news of other genre series from Amazon:

  • THEM: Covenant[…] is: ‘Set in 1953, Alfred and Lucky Emory decide to move their family from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood. The family’s home on a tree lined, seemingly idyllic street becomes ground zero where malevolent forces both real and supernatural threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them.’”
  • Half-hour comedy Upload“will revolve around the ability of humans to upload themselves to a selected afterlife” and is said to be “a sci-fi romcom [that] will star Robbie Amell [and] Andy Allo.”
  • Cryptically, “Avengers: Infinity Wardirectors Joe and Anthony Russo are developing ‘a radical global storytelling disruption’ that will be ‘a large-scope, multi-layered international event series’ [and an] ‘origin mothership series will function as a fire-starter to ignite the creation of multiple original local language and local production series. All of the local series are meant to enhance the entire entertainment experience and will be available for the viewer to deep dive into an imagined layered world.’”

(Can anyone parse that last one and tell me what that last sentence really means?)

(5) THIRTY YEARS OF THE SIMPSONS?! Mike Riess, veteran of The Simpsons, has written a book about the series: Springfield Confidential.

Four-time Emmy winner Mike Reiss—who has worked on The Simpsons continuously since episode one in 1989—shares stories, scandals, and gossip about working with America’s most iconic cartoon family ever. Reiss explains how the episodes are created, and provides an inside look at the show’s writers, animators, actors and celebrity guests. He answers a range of questions from Simpsons fans and die-hards, and reminisces about the making of perennially favorite episodes.

In his freewheeling, irreverent comic style, Reiss reflects on his lifetime inside The Simpsons—a personal highlights reel of his achievements, observations, and favorite stories. Springfield Confidential exposes why Matt Groening decided to make all of the characters yellow; dishes on what it’s like to be crammed in a room full of funny writers sixty hours a week; and tells what Reiss learned after traveling to seventy-one countries where The Simpsons is watched (ironic note: there’s no electricity in many of these places); and even reveals where Springfield is located! He features unique interviews with Judd Apatow, who also provided the foreword, and Conan O’Brien, as well as with Simpsons legends Al Jean, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, and more…

(6) REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Adweek points out a reference-filled video: “Buckle Up. This Short Film From a Financial Tech Startup Is Part Black Mirror, Part ‘They Live’”.

Bank ads love to talk about your dreams. A bucolic retirement, an Ivy League education for your kids, that five-bedroom home with the “Sold” sign in the yard.

But a new long-form ad—or branded short film, more accurately—from Canadian financial tech startup Koho positions banks not as the enablers of your best life but rather as harvesters of dreams, brutally siphoning customers of both their money and their aspirations.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Dystopian, bleak and visceral, “Dream Thieves” accomplishes exactly what Koho set out to do with its first major marketing push. Led by Jason Chaney, Koho’s chief creative officer, the video was directed by French music video visionary Fleur Fortuné and produced by acclaimed Canadian agency Cossette, where Chaney previously served as chief strategist.

Sci-fi aficionados will notice no small number of references, some subtle and others overt, to previous movies, shows and even ads. While the overall tone may remind modern TV viewers of the Netflix anthology Black Mirror, Chaney says his team has counted roughly 30 references in “Dream Thieves,” including callbacks to A Clockwork Orange, Poltergeist and Apple’s iconic ad “1984.”

 

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

When you complain about slow internet service, remember this:

The first transcontinental phone call was held between the device’s inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, and his former assistant Thomas Watson in 1915. Bell called from Dey Street in New York City to Grant Avenue in San Francisco. It took five telephone operators 23 minutes to manually connect the call. (Source: Wikipedia)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 28, 1956 The Cyclops had its theatrical release
  • July 28, 1995Waterworld premiered

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born July 28 – Georgia Engel, 70. First genre appearance on the first Fantasy Island series followed by lots voice work in such productions as The Special Magic of Herself the Elf, Dr. Doolittle 2,  and the Hercules series.
  • Born July 28 – Lori Loughlin, 54. First genre work was in The Tom Swift and Linda Craig Mystery Hour series, also the Amityville 3-D film, the animated Justice League Unlimited series, likewise the animated Casper: A Spirited Beginning film.
  • Born July 28 – Elizabeth Berkley, 46. Yes she’s done some genre work including The Twilight Zone, Perversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these birthday notes.
  • Born July 28 – Tom Pelphrey, 36. Regular role in the Iron Fist series and not much else for genre work other than appearing in Ghost Whisperer.
  • Born July 28 – Dustin Milligan, 33. Regular role in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency series; other genre roles were on Andromeda (which I’ve not seen — worth seeing?), in the Final Destination 3 film, The Dead Zone, Supernatural, and a bit of probably horrible horror called Demonic.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) RELOADED.  Lou Antonelli’s Hugo nominee “Replacement Pins” have arrived. Photo at the post.

(12) A THOUSAND TIMES, NEIGH. The Verge shows why “The future of search-and-rescue robots might be centaur, not human”. The embedded video has the bot doing what looks for all the world like a tai chi routine for the first several seconds of the ~3 min video.

Centauro is the latest experiment by scientists to find the most adaptable and useful body-shape for robots designed to help in disasters. Usually, these machines are built like humans, with two arms and two legs, but researchers are increasingly finding that hybrid designs offer more flexibility. With its four wheeled legs, Centauro is more stable than a humanoid bot, but still retains the two forward-facing arms needed for manipulating objects like tools and doors. (Or, as in the video below, karate-chopping some plywood for fun.)

(13) WHEN THE SEA IS BOILING HOT. NPR explains how “Hot Weather Spells Trouble For Nuclear Power Plants”.

Air temperatures have stubbornly lingered above 90 degrees in many parts of Sweden, Finland and Germany, and water temperatures are abnormally high — 75 degrees or higher in the usually temperate Baltic Sea.

That’s bad news for nuclear power plants, which rely on seawater to cool reactors.

Finland’s Loviisa power plant, located about 65 miles outside Helsinki, first slightly reduced its output on Wednesday. “The situation does not endanger people, [the] environment or the power plant,” its operator, the energy company Fortum, wrote in a statement.

The seawater has not cooled since then, and the plant continued to reduce its output on both Thursday and Friday, confirmed the plant’s chief of operations, Timo Eurasto. “The weather forecast [means] it can continue at least a week. But hopefully not that long,” he said.

(14) NO SINGULAR SENSATION. Forbes says the public needs to catch up, that model is decades out of date: “There Was No Big Bang Singularity”.

…There is a theorem, famous among cosmologists, showing that an inflationary state is past-timelike-incomplete. What this means, explicitly, is that if you have any particles that exist in an inflating Universe, they will eventually meet if you extrapolate back in time. This doesn’t, however, mean that there must have been a singularity, but rather that inflation doesn’t describe everything that occurred in the history of the Universe, like its birth. We also know, for example, that inflation cannot arise from a singular state, because an inflating region must always begin from a finite size.

Every time you see a diagram, an article, or a story talking about the “big bang singularity” or any sort of big bang/singularity existing before inflation, know that you’re dealing with an outdated method of thinking. The idea of a Big Bang singularity went out the window as soon as we realized we had a different state — that of cosmic inflation — preceding and setting up the early, hot-and-dense state of the Big Bang. There may have been a singularity at the very beginning of space and time, with inflation arising after that, but there’s no guarantee. In science, there are the things we can test, measure, predict, and confirm or refute, like an inflationary state giving rise to a hot Big Bang. Everything else? It’s nothing more than speculation.

(15) BITE ME. Here’s some more bad science you’ll be less surprised to hear about. The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr notes that Discovery broadcast Megalodon:  Fact vs. Fiction last night, even though there is no evidence that hungry prehistoric sharks are in the ocean: “A fake Shark Week documentary about megalodons caused controversy. Why is Discovery bringing it up again?”

At the beginning of this special, a narrator explains the dust-up. Unflattering headlines from news articles at the time (“Discovery kicks off Shark Week with dishonest documentary”) and angry tweets fly across the screen. The special keeps a tongue-in-cheek tone; at one point, shark conservationist Julie Andersen acknowledges the scenes of Shark Alley, a real-life area off the South African coast, was pretty accurate in the fake film.

“But let me repeat myself: There are no megalodons!” she adds.

“We get it, smarty-pants. No megalodons roam the modern seas,” the voice-over narrator shoots back. “But when they did, the oceans were like a Darwinian Thunderdome, survived only by the fittest and biggest.”

(16) HOLD FAST. Beth Elderkin at Gizmodo’s io9 takes a look at Star Wars weapons and the characters who love them (“A Shockingly In-Depth Examination of How Star Wars Characters Hold Their Weapons”). Though, one might quibble about just how shockingly in-depth it is. Blasters, light sabers, stunners, and even capes are considered. Poses and grips are dissected. As the author puts it, “We’re here to not only explore but celebrate the art of looking cool while holding a toy gun or fluorescent lightbulb on a stick.”

(17) BY GEORGE! Item 5 in yesterday’s Scroll set Camestros Felapton’s muse to weavnig a copacetic comma filk:

[With apologies to Culture Club]

Words running altogether every day
To make sense they need something in their way

[Pre-Chorus]
I’m a sign without conviction
I’m a tiny mark that doesn’t know
How to work as punctuation
I come and go and come and go

[Chorus]
Comma comma comma comma comma chameleon
I come and go and come and go
Usage would be easy if you used me when you pause
Or to break a clause, to break a clause

[Bridge]
An em-dash is not my rival
I’m a punctual revival
It is not a matter of survival
Style guides are not my bible

[Chorus]
Comma comma comma comma comma chameleon
I pause and go and pause and go
Commas would be easy if you used them sparingly
Or not at all or not at all

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, A.G. Carpenter, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26/18 What Is The Law? Not To Reuse Titles, That Is The Law

(1) GOOD THOUGHTS ON BAD PRACTICES. Kristine Kathryn Rusch comments on historic efforts to game Amazon’s algorithms. “Business Musings: Sometimes I Just React…”

…Back when I started blogging on publishing in 2010 (after writing The Freelancer’s Survival Guide on this site in 2009), I had the lovely experience of being trashed repeatedly by the Kindle Unlimited folks. Only there wasn’t Unlimited—not yet. There was just the Kindle Boards, where writers gathered to talk.

And what they talked about was what professional writers everywhere talk about—how to make money. (We don’t dare discuss craft with each other for fear that we’ll insult our peers. We all have friends who have great writing careers, whom we believe {in our heart of hearts} can’t write their way out of a paper bag. And, we know, that some of our friends think the same thing about us. It’s better to discuss quantifiable things, like money, instead of qualitative things, like craft. {See my post on “Taste” from last week.})

That “how to make money” thing took on a life of its own on the Kindle Boards. It wasn’t about how to improve your storytelling to make money. It wasn’t about those old-fashioned systems like agents or traditional publishers or contracts, although there occasionally was talk like that.

Instead, it was about which subgenres sold, and how many books you had to write and publish each month to stay ahead of the algorithms. It was about writing short so that you had more books published (in the early days) or putting the table of contents at the end so that the algorithm would think someone who clicked there had read the whole book….

(2) RUNNING DARMOK. Whew, people really took off with this meme game….

For example (the second is what I have in mind) —

JJ suggests, “Breq, outside a tavern in snow.”

(3) AT THE CORE. Scientific American tells how “Milky Way’s Black Hole Provides Long-Sought Test of Einstein’s General Relativity”.

Genzel and his colleagues have tracked the journey of this star, known as S2, since the early 1990s. Using telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the scientists watch it as it travels in an elliptical orbit around the black hole, which lies 26,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. With a mass of 4 million times the Sun, the black hole generates the strongest gravitational field in the Milky Way. That makes it an ideal place to hunt for relativistic effects.

On 18 May this year, S2 passed as close as it ever does to the black hole. The researchers pointed instruments including GRAVITY, an instrument called an interferometer that combines light from four 8-meter telescopes and became operational in 2016. “With our measurements the door is wide open to black-hole physics,” says team member Frank Eisenhauer, an astronomer at the Max Planck institute.

GRAVITY measured S2’s movement across the sky; at its fastest, the star whizzed along at more than 7,600 kilometres a second, or nearly 3% the speed of light. Meanwhile, a different instrument studied how fast S2 moved towards and away from Earth as it swung past the black hole. Combining the observations allowed Genzel’s team to detect the star’s gravitational redshift—its light being stretched to longer wavelengths by the black hole’s immense gravitational pull, which is consistent with the predictions of general relativity.

“What we measured cannot be described by Newton any more,” says Odele Straub, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory. Future observations of S2 might confirm other Einstein predictions, such as how the spinning black hole drags space-time around with it.

(4) SFWA MENTEE PROGRAM. The deadline to apply is July 31.

(5) UNCANNY KICKSTARTER. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas have launched a Kickstarter for Year Five of their 2016 and 2017 Hugo Award-winning professional online SF/F magazine: Uncanny Magazine. The funds will cover some of its operational and production costs for the fifth year, with an initial goal of $18,700. plus an added stretch goal of launching a new Uncanny TV video magazine. The Kickstarter runs through August 24: “Uncanny Magazine Year Five: I Want My Uncanny TV!”

For Year Five, Uncanny has solicited original short fiction from Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-winning and nominated authors and bestselling authors including: Ursula Vernon, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kelly Robson, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Ellen Klages, Naomi Kritzer, Greg van Eekhout, John Chu, Sarah Pinsker,  Rebecca Roanhorse, and Delilah S. Dawson.  There will also be numerous slots for unsolicited submissions.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five plans to showcase original essays by Mark Oshiro, Zoë Quinn, Alexandra Erin, Tanya DePass, Jim C. Hines, and Diana M. Pho,  plus poetry by Beth Cato, S. Qiouyi Lu, Brandon O’Brien, Cassandra Khaw, Nicasio Reed, and Leah Bobet.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five will also feature cover art by John Picacio and Galen Dara.

This year, Uncanny is back with a new mission for the ranger corps: UNCANNY TV.

Hosted and produced by Michi Trota and Matt Peters, Uncanny TV will be the launch of our community-based vid channel, featuring exclusive geeky content related to Uncanny and the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps community. Matt Peters & Michi Trota will host a short (20-30 min) variety talk show Uncanny Magazine style: highlighting creators in SF/F working in a variety of art forms and projects, focusing on people building and nurturing their communities, particularly highlighting marginalized creators. They’ll talk about topics that can be serious, but the overall tone of the show will be to celebrate the things we enjoy and the people who make our communities good places to be in SF/F.

(6) DOES THIS WORK? Beatrice Verhoeven, in The Wrap’s story “‘Star Wars’ Director Rian Johnson Deletes 20,000 Tweets After James Gunn Firing in ‘Why Not?’ Move”, says that Johnson has deleted all his tweets before January 25 of this year, explaining, “if trolls looking for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not’ move.”

On Tuesday, The Mary Sue tweeted a story that said, “it’s also possible that Disney has issued some sort of directive to their talent about social media post-Gunn situation, suggesting caution or deletion.” In response, Johnson tweeted, “No official directive at all, and I don’t think I’ve ever tweeted anything that bad. But it’s nine years of stuff written largely off the cuff as ephemera, if trolls scrutinizing it for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not?’ move.”

(7) NO BUCKS AND NO BUCK ROGERS. The Hollywood Reporter has the latest about the Buck Rogers rights litigation: “Judge Directs Government Intervention in “Buck Rogers” Bankruptcy”.

The audacious plan to use a bankruptcy court to auction off “Buck Rogers” rights despite lingering ownership challenges appears to have backfired on those ostensibly serving the interests of heirs of John Dille, who published the fictional space hero in magazines in the early-to-mid 20th century. On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania bankruptcy court issued an extraordinary decision that faulted the Dille Family Trust with a number of sins. As a result, the Office of the U.S. Trustee has been directed to appoint a Chapter 11 Trustee in what could ultimately result in a long anticipated film adaptation of Armageddon 2419 A.D., the 1929 novella by Philip Francis Nowlan that introduced the Buck Rogers character.

The background of what happened is detailed much more extensively here, but in November 2017, the Dilles declared bankruptcy in the midst of litigation with Nowlan’s heirs about trademark rights and in the middle of fighting with producer Don Murphy about whether Armageddon 2419 A.D. was in the public domain. Filing for bankruptcy meant a pause on litigation, and the Dilles wanted to liquidate their interests in Buck Rogers rights — whatever those might be — through Heritage Auctions. Since the filing of bankruptcy, Murphy and the Nowlans have pounded the table that this proceeding was all a farce.

Now, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery Deller has seen enough.

In a memorandum opinion (read here), he writes that it is undisputed that the Dille Family Trust has no business operations, has no meaningful income, is liquidating as opposed to reorganizing, has incurred administrative expenses with no liquid assets available to satisfy these debts, and has invoked the automatic stay for the primary purpose of avoiding a trial regarding an alleged interest in various intellectual property.

(8) WORLDCON WOES. John Scalzi delivers “A Little More On Recent Worldcon Stuff”.

Also, while I’m on the subject of the Hugo and Worldcon, I see some various turdlings out there are gleeful about the recent dustup re: the Worldcon program. “The SJWs are eating themselves!” is the basic line of the turdlings. In fact, something entirely different happened.

Which was: When the problems cropped up (and they did) and people started to complain (and they did), the Worldcon, within a day, acknowledged that various mistakes had happened and actively moved to correct those mistakes. Not perfectly or instantly, but it still happened.

Which is what you want to happen! In an ideal world, mistakes don’t get made, but we don’t live in an ideal world and none of us is our ideal self. The next best thing is, when mistakes are pointed out, you move to fix them and to learn from them.

The turdlings who are gleeful at the Worldcon’s temporary woes don’t care about anything other than an institution they dislike and tried (or are still trying) to sabotage having a stumble. That’s because they’re basically awful, whiny menchildren. No surprise there.

(9) TAKE ME OUT TO THE BOT GAME. Flippy the Robot, from Miso Robotics, will be “wearing” Dodger blue this summer (Food & Wine: “Flippy the Robot Is the Tater Tot-Making Boyfriend I Deserve”) and manning (robotting?) the fry basket:

In 2017, Miso Robotics introduced the world to Flippy, a jaunty new robot that can make food alongside humans, prepping fried chicken and tater tots and burgers with ease. And this summer, Flippy will be gainfully employed at Dodgers Stadium to make concessions, working the frying station. This follows a successful stint flipping burgers at a Pasadena CaliBurger earlier this year.

“Adapting Flippy into a fryer assistant … has been a great opportunity to demonstrate the scale of Miso’s platform,” Miso Robotics CEO David Zitosaid in a statement. “[T]his technology [is] a win-win — improving working conditions for stadium employees and improving the game experience for fans.” In February, Flippy raised $10 million from investors.

(10) ROBOTS OVER THE MILLENNIA. A Nature open-access PDF article, “Ancient dreams of intelligent machines: 3,000 years of robots”, in which “Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal revisit the extraordinary history of cultural responses to automata.”

The word ‘robot’ was born in Czech writer Karel ?apek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). In the very work coining the term, the robots rebel against and destroy their creators. And that narrative of rebellion has proved to be the most potent of all our AI fears, retold repeatedly as technology evolves.

During the cold war space race, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) gave us HAL 9000, the murderous spaceship supercomputer. With the rise of the Internet, we got Skynet — a defence network that becomes self-aware in the Terminator films (starting in 1984) — and The Matrix (1999), featuring intelligent machines that farm humans whose minds unknowingly inhabit a virtual reality. Now, with AI dominating headlines, we have sophisticated robots again overthrowing their wetware masters, from Ava in the 2015 film Ex Machina to the android amusement-park hosts in the Westworld television series.

The persistent trope of robot revolts reveals the paradox at the heart of our relationship with intelligent machines. We want to create clever tools that can do everything we can do, and more. They will be the perfect oracles, servants, soldiers, even lovers. To fulfil our hopes, they must have attributes such as intellect and agency — minds of their own, superior to ours. But, paradoxically, that is also why we fear HAL and Skynet. The tension lies in our conflicted desire to create beings superhuman in capacity, but subhuman in status.

(11) PETERSEN OBIT. Andrew Petersen, a student I met at Azusa Pacific University’s Yosemite Semester in 2001, has died. One of his ambitions was to captain a Jungle Cruise boat at Disneyland and he not only did that, he went to work at the Park, along the way running the Indiana Jones ride and the Enchanted Tiki Room. What a character he was, what a great guy.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley. Swap two numbers in the year and you have another dystopian author’s book.
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick.
  • Born July 26 – Helen Mirren, 73. Genre work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, the classic Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre and as Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy film.
  • Born July 26 – Sandra Bullock, 54. First genre role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man and Gravity to name but two of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26 – Jeremy Piven, 53. Jeffrey Tanner in the quickly and mercifully canceled Wisdom of the Crowd series, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, the Hercules animated series, the Cupid series as well and a lot of voice work.
  • Born July 26 – Olivia Williams, 50. Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse and Emily Burton Silk in Counterpart, also the Jason and the Argonauts series in a recurring role as Hera, yet another Peter Pan  film, and apparently an uncredited appearance in X-Men: The Last Stand.
  • Born July 26 – Kate Beckinsale, 45. Selene in the Underworld film franchise, also Van HelsingAlice Through the Looking Glass, Haunted and a recurring role in the Elder Scrolls Online video game franchise.
  • Born July 26 – Eve Myles, 40. Gwen Cooper in both the Doctor Who and Torchwood series, and voice performer in the Big Finish series of audiobooks including Golden Age, a splendid story involving Torchwood India.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) A CAREER, JUST NOT THE ONE PRESENTED. Her history of crowdsourcing funds, promoting literary events, and tendency to not deliver made the LA Times ask “Who Is Anna March?”

…Anna March whisked in and out, a flash of pink hair in a polka-dot dress. The 2015 party at the Ace’s mezzanine bar, serving free drinks, was packed to overflowing.

March had never published a book but had been quietly working literary Los Angeles’ social media connections for months. A spunky, unapologetic, sex-positive feminist ready to raise hell, she was supportive and flattering. She was also conspicuously generous — concerned about the line of people waiting to get into the party, March asked a pair of new acquaintances if she should give $20 bills to those stuck on the sidewalk. The bill for the night would total more than $22,000.

Why is she doing this? people asked, stealing glances at March.

Some had a larger question:

Who was Anna March?

That was a harder question to answer than you might think. Anna March first appeared around 2011, when she started publishing online. Before that, she was known by different names in different cities. In researching this story, The Times found four: Anna March, Delaney Anderson, Nancy Kruse and Nancy Lott.

In three places — Los Angeles, San Diego and Rehoboth Beach, Del. — March became a part of the literary community. She won over new friends, even accomplished authors but especially writers trying to find a way into that world, with her generosity, her enthusiasm and apparent literary success — only to leave town abruptly…

(15) DOUBLE JEOPARDY. No sooner had Jon Del Arroz started an Indiegogo to fund a comic book project than somebody unveiled a bogus Kickstarter featuring an image of the same character. JDA has gotten the hoax Kickstarter taken down.

Fake fundraiser screencap

JDA knows his audience — his announcement of the real Indiegogo appeal on his blog is sandwiched between a post gloating about Worldcon 76 program travails and another post complaining that Tor Books is attacking him — and the Indiegogo appeal is closing in on its $6,000 goal.

(16) ALAN MOORE. Paste Magazine says these are “The 10 Best Alan Moore Comics of All Time”.

  1. A Small Killing
    Artist: Oscar Zarate
    Publisher: Avatar Press
    Here’s the landmark which stands nearest to Moore. Allow me to explain: I don’t think A Small Killing is the work that means the most to Moore emotionally, or that it shows some never-revealed Rosebud, or that it amounts to autobiography by code. What I mean is that A Small Killing is the work I see as somehow closest to the heart of the creator, the way the Book of Job is central to any exegesis of the Tanakh. A Small Killing is a story that unconsciously comments on Moore’s anxiety. (This is all rabid hearsay, of course, and should not be aired in a legitimate court of law.)

(17) IN UNIFORM. People.com shows how “Natalie Portman Transforms Into NASA Astronaut in Pale Blue Dot. Natalie Portman plays a NASA astronaut in Pale Blue Dot, a fictional story said to be based loosely on the Lisa Nowak -Bill Oefelein-Colleen Shipman “astronaut love triangle” of 2007.

In the early morning hours of that day, Nowak was wearing a black wig and trench coat when she approached Colleen Shipman’s car in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport. She banged on the Shipman’s window and begged for a ride. When Shipman rolled down her window, Nowak sprayed her with pepper spray and tried to get in the car.

Shipman fled the scene, shaken but unhurt. Police arrested Nowak on attempted murder and kidnapping charges.

The resulting case was dubbed the “astronaut love triangle.”

(18) DOOR-TO-DOOR.

(19) ON THE BEACH. “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars” — ESA’s Mars orbiter finds something too big (12 miles across) to be just sub-ice meltwater — probably very cold and briny, and a mile under the ice, but definitely a lake.

Marsis wasn’t able to determine how thick the layer of water might be, but the research team estimate that it is a minimum of one metre.

“This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth,” Prof Orosei added.

(20) MARSWARD BOUND. Here’s The First Teaser. The series comes to Hulu September 14.

The First is created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) and stars Sean Penn. Set in the near future (2030), this groundbreaking story explores the challenges of taking the first steps towards Mars. Viewers will get an intimate look at the dedicated characters trying to reach the unknown while dealing with the psychological and physical toll it takes to achieve the impossible.

 

(21) NOT ALONE. The last man on earth was alone in his room. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. – Oops, sorry, this is not the Fredric Brown story, it’s the I Think We’re Alone Now teaser trailer.

Del (Peter Dinklage) is alone in the world. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in his small, empty town, content in his solitude and the utopia he’s methodically created for himself – until he is discovered by Grace (Elle Fanning), an interloper whose history and motives are obscure. Worse yet, she wants to stay.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Joel Zakem, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John  King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/22/18 Insert Self-Referential Pixel Scroll Title Here

(1) THE BARD OF MARS. Tickets are on sale for “MARTIANS – An Evening With Ray Bradbury”, to be staged at the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks, CA beginning September 7.

Ray Bradbury speaks directly to the audience weaving Martians stories both humorous and harrowing, bringing his characters to life on stage right before your eyes. Characters like Bob and Carrie, a young couple struggling to turn the cold, dead Mars into an Earthly garden. Theres Beck and Craig, two soliders of fortune searching for the legendary Blue Bottle of Mars! Father Nivens religious faith traps a shapeshifting Martian in the form of Christ! Emil Barton is the alst man on Mars with only recordings of his younger self to keep him company, or drive him mad!

As Ray creates his stories we come to know the mind and heart of the great writer who believes that humanity can only survive by carrying our culture out into the Universe!

Most of the text is taken from Rays own words, from interviews and books hes written on the art of writing, as well as adaptations of his Martian stories The Strawberry Window, The Blue Bottle, The Messiah and Night Call, Collect.

Ray Bradbury is played by co-creater Charlie Mount who played him in a production of The October Country and produced Rays Irish play Falling Upward with Pat Harrington, Jr, both staged at Theatre West in association with Rays Pandemonium Theatre Company…

(2) STEAMPOSIUM UP IN SMOKE. There will be no Alaska Steamposium this year. Its chair, Tess, announced on Facebook what the future holds:

We attempted to adapt, to go with the flow, and pull off a hail Mary. And I think our track record of hail Marys is pretty good. (Anyone remember the year we had more vendors and staff than attendees?) But the honest truth is, we don’t want to half ass it. We like to whole ass all of our endeavors.

There were many reasons we chose this as the best path, and a good portion of that was how to keep our booth spaces and ticket prices affordable for everyone. If anyone has paid money, it is being refunded as I type.

We’re going to take a year and reorganize, and restructure, and in general change the way we do things. We completely understand if we loose some of you to anger and frustration. But we hope with all our hearts that you stick with us. We have even greater hope that some of you will join our Staff. We have far too few people to run an event of this size. Dedicated, (A small portion of the reason for our postponement for a year)

Many, many of you have concerns, comments, and suggestions moving forward. Please post them here. As with all difficult decisions, the responsibility stops with me. I wear the big bustle. My staff has worked hard, tirelessly, and even spent their own money in an attempt to make this year possible. If you need somewhere to place blame or vent anger, you direct to toward me, and me alone….

(3) NOVIK PRAISED. Constance Grady reviews the new book for Vox: “With Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik cements her status as one of the great YA fantasy authors”.

Spinning Silver is a spiritual successor to Novik’s 2015 novel Uprooted, for which she won the Nebula for best science fiction and fantasy novel. While the books don’t take place in the same universe, they’re both set in fantasy lands with Eastern European influences, and they both play with fairy-tale tropes without becoming literal retellings. (Novik got her start in fanfiction, which means she comes by her ability to deconstruct tropes honestly.)

The novels also both revolve around the same romance trope, in which a feisty young girl is kidnapped by an immensely powerful older man whom she must change for the better. The power dynamics here are questionable, to say the least, but the way Novik insists on her heroine’s agency makes the story palatable, and the conclusion is undeniably satisfying. What makes the trope more or less work in the end is that Novik’s girls are not just heroines. They are also monsters, even if they have their reasons for what they do.

(4) LOOKING THROUGH THE LENDING WINDOW. John Scalzi, a flagship author at Tor, weighs in on “That Tor Library eBook Lending Thing”.

  1. Tor says that it is noting a general impact on ebook sales because of library lending (its initial statement was more adamant about it, it appears, than some followups). I haven’t seen anyone’s sales numbers but mine, but I do know Tor’s data game is pretty strong — we use it to maximize my own sales and we’ve done a pretty good job there. Its data-mining history has some credibility for me.
  2. Tor has not been a troglodyte either in how it proceeds with ebook tech (remember that it was one of the first major publishers to offer ebooks DRM-free) or in sales/marketing. It’s taken risks and done things other publishers didn’t/wouldn’t do, sometimes just to see what would happen. I have my own example of this: Tor’s ebook-first serialization publication of The Human Division and The End of All Things helped provide Tor with much of the data it used to build its successful Tor.com novella line.

So with all that noted, let’s go back to my first blush statement. I don’t think having day-and-date ebook library lending has had a detrimental effect on my own sales situation. I’m also aware I’m not in the same situation as most authors with regard to sales and attention. Tor has a financial and fiduciary duty to sell books, for itself and for its authors. If Tor wants to try a pilot program to window ebook library lending to find out what impact it has on its sales in general, as much as I don’t think it makes sense for me or my books, I also recognize I don’t see all the data Tor sees across its entire line. I’m also willing to believe, based on previous experience, that Tor is neither stupid, excessively greedy, nor unwilling to make changes if the data tells it something different than what it expects.

(5) ALDRIN FAMILY VALUES. Buzz Aldrin told Florida Today (“Buzz Aldrin explains why he was a no-show at Apollo gala”) why he stayed away from a gala at Kennedy Space Center “kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, even though the event is an important fundraiser for his foundation and he typically is the star attraction.” It was due to a legal fight within his family and disagreements over the direction of Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation. His son, Dr. Andrew Aldrin, serves as the President of the Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation.

“I will not be attending the Gala tonight. While initially looking forward to it, due to the present course of events related to my space initiative, also current legal matters linked to the ShareSpace Foundation, I have decided not to attend at this time…

…the Foundation is, in my view, now being used to promote quite different objectives. I was recently advised by way of a letter from an attorney for my son, Andrew Aldrin, that I was not to hold myself as being part of the Foundation.”

The Orlando Sentinel reported on the suit when it was filed in June: “Buzz Aldrin sues 2 of his children, claiming slander over dementia”.

Aldrin’s lawsuit filed earlier this month in a Florida state court came a week after his children, Andrew and Janice, filed a petition claiming their father was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia and confusion. They asked for the court to name them his legal guardians

KVEO’s article “Gala opens countdown to 50th anniversary of 1st moon landing” adds:

Andrew and Jan Aldrin, as well as business manager Christina Korp, are on the foundation’s board and attended the gala. Aldrin’s oldest son, James, isn’t involved in the legal fight.

Andrew Aldrin acknowledged his father’s absence during the gala.

“We’re sorry dad can’t be here, I know some of you are disappointed,” Aldrin said. “Ultimately, what we’re about is creating the first generation of Martians.”

(6) STARTING YOUNG. Kayla Randall has a profile in the Washington City Paper of Rebecca F. Kuang, whose first novel, The Poppy War, is out from Harper Voyager.  Kuang just graduated from Georgetown University this year. “How a Georgetown Student Published Her Epic Fantasy Debut—Before She Turned 22”

Kuang began writing the book when she was 19 and managed to start, finish, and publish the book all before turning 22. She graduated from Georgetown this spring and will enter Cambridge’s modern Chinese studies program in the fall.

“I never really thought about age being a barrier,” she says. She had read Eragon by Christopher Paolini, who started writing that book at the age of 15 and published it when he was 19. “It always seemed possible that you could write fantasy and get published at a ridiculously young age,” Kuang says.

A gap year between her sophomore and junior years allowed her to finish the book. She lived in Beijing and taught debate to high school students. Before she moved to China, she’d had very little contact with her grandparents but when she returned, she had long conversations with them and learned her family’s history in China. “I was steeped in that family legacy and decided I wanted to do something with it,” she says. The “something” evolved into the plot of The Poppy War, with some supplemental fantasy elements.

(7) FORTNITE ADDICTS. In the Washington Post, Sam Fortier says that many professional coaches are worried that athletes are spending so much time playing Fortnite that they’re not getting enough sleep and are doing a poor job at game time — “Are pro athletes playing too much Fortnite? Some teams are worried.”

The fear of the Capitals is that games such as Fortnite could erode a foundational practice of their developmental system: eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Before last season, the Capitals instructed Olie Kolzig, the former Capitals goalie who is now a coach with their minor league affiliate in Hershey, Pa., to monitor players’ cellphone usage. The organization knew some junior-hockey players had “a problem” because looking at screens less than an hour before bed affected their sleep. This coming season, management trusts Kolzig’s players will know the same concern applies to Fortnite.

Yet Kolzig finds himself in the same predicament any parent faces because video games are integral to his players’ culture. So he will ask they discipline themselves to about an hour a day and not to play before bed.

“It’s a big issue, and it could affect performance,” Kolzig said. “But they’re grown men. .?.?. You can’t hold their hand and force-feed them [advice]….”

(8) BRAND MALFUNCTION. Inverse says “Stan Lee Did a Legitimate Cameo in a DC Movie”.

…Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance in pretty much every single Marvel movie, and for good reason, since the co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and more is in many ways Marvel’s public face. He never did any work for rival DC Comics, though, which explains why Lee has never made a cameo in a DC movie… until now.

Lee makes his DC debut in Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, which opens on July 27. The long-running Cartoon Network series’ first big-screen adventure is chock-full of meta-humor that puts Deadpool to shame, as it’s all about making a blockbuster superhero movie and skewering the entire industry/genre in the process….

(9) WENDEL OBIT. 3rd Rock from the Sun actress Elmarie Wendel has died. Syfy Wire posted a career retrospective.

Her other genre roles included: Fallout 4 (Video Game, 2015), The Lorax (2012), Rumpelstiltskin (1995), Weird Science (1994, 1 episode), Knight Rider (1982, 1 episode).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows that, like Westworld, nothing can go wrong during a chat with Alexa….

(11) SIDESHOW. Gizmodo’s io9 takes you to the winner of the Franchise Wars at SDCC (“Taco Bell’s Demolition Man Restaurant Gave Us Nacho Fries, Happy Feelings, and Seashell Butts”). The pop-up “Taco Bell 2032” was something between a restaurant and an art installation set up near Comic-Con, though non-attendees were welcomed too. (One has a hard time imagining why any non attendee would have wanted to wait in the hours-long line.) The io9 writer was impressed with the effort put into the look and feel of the place, much evoking the Taco Bell featured in Demolition Man (Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, Wesley Snipe). The food? Well, it certainly looks fancy and was said to taste pretty good, but it is a Taco Bell.

So, were the three seashells in the restroom? Yeah, looks like they were… but carefully sealed in a clear box with a scrolling electronic sign that seemed to read “out of order.” What people would have done with them had they been accessible does not bear close thought.

(12) DRAX DEFENDS JAMES GUNN. One of his actors spoke out in his defense: “Dave Bautista, Others Defend James Gunn: ‘I Am NOT OK With What’s Happening’” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” actor Dave Bautista came out strongly in defense of James Gunn Friday after Disney fired him from his role as director of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”

“I will have more to say but for right now I will say this,” Bautista, who plays Drax in both “Guardians” movies and in “Avengers: Infinity War,” wrote on Twitter. “James Gunn is one of the most loving, caring, good natured people I have ever met. He’s gentle and kind and cares deeply for people and animals. He’s made mistakes. We all have. I’m NOT ok with what’s happening to him.”

(13) PETITION TO BRING BACK GUNN. A Change.org petition calling for Marvel to Re-Hire James Gunn already has over 106,000 signatures. The petition’s author says —

I’m smart enough to know this most likely won’t change anything but hopefully, this could get Disney to realize the mistake they made and not do it again in the future.

I agree on the point that if people say a bunch of stupid shit while working for a studio, the studio has full right to fire him over the possible controversy. This situation is very different though as he made these jokes years before he was working for Disney and also the fact that they were jokes. I agree with most, including Gunn himself that the jokes were shitty and un-funny but they were still jokes, it wasn’t an opinion or a statement, it was just a bad attempt at being funny.

(14) WHAT WAS SO BAD? Not everyone has read examples of Gunn’s tasteless jokes? Bill linked to numerous samples in this comment – and be warned, a lot of it is quite foul.

(15) NO COMING BACK. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna analyzes why “For James Gunn, there’s no return to being a major mainstream filmmaker”.

On Thursday, Gunn apologized in a series of tweets to his nearly half-million Twitter followers, trying to explain that he attempted such social-media “jokes” back when he viewed himself as “a provocateur” whose humor and horror movies alike were “outrageous and taboo.”

Joking in a taboo manner about such subjects as rape and pedophilia didn’t hurt Gunn’s filmmaking career back when he was a lesser-known indie director releasing such low-budget, industry-admired movies as “Slither.” But now that he is mainstream, there is, of course, no way a major studio creating all-ages entertainment can keep even a beloved franchise director in a leadership role.

Walt Disney chairman Alan Horn said Friday in a statement: “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

The irony here, of course, is that Disney simply had to know about Gunn’s history of offensive online remarks when they hired him for 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” – the first film in a franchise powered largely by Gunn’s bent sense of humor and love of classic rock songs.

(16) CERNOVICH. SFGate invites readers to “Meet Mike Cernovich, the Right-Wing Provocateur Who Got James Gunn Fired”.

Right-wing provocateur Mike Cernovich claimed another scalp online Friday when Disney fired James Gunn from its “Guardians of the Galaxy” series because of old tweets that Cernovich helped publicize.

(17) SKRUTSKIE NOVEL REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson sees “Muscle And Bone Meet Machinery In ‘Hullmetal Girls'”:

Hullmetal Girls embraces teen angst in the form of bionic mech suits and the girls who meld with them to save humanity.

Aisha Un-Haad has been working hard as a janitor to take care of her two younger siblings, but when one of them falls ill with a deadly fever that’s sweeping through all the ships that make up the Fleet, she makes the decision to become Scela, a bionic super-soldier created to protect and serve the Fleet’s rulers. There’s no going back once her body is sliced and diced to make room for the mechanical parts that make up her new artificially intelligent “exo,” and her mind is welded permanently to its will and those of the other Scela in her squad. But it will all be worth it if she can advance far enough in the ranks to earn a salary that will keep her siblings safe….

(18) ONE WORD. NPR’s Korva Kolman looks at “Beowulf In The Suburbs? ‘The Mere Wife’ Is An Epic Retelling”:

There’s a vitally important word in the epic tale of Beowulf and, according to Maria Dahvana Headley, it’s been translated incorrectly for a very long time. The word is aglæca/æglæca — no one’s entirely sure how to pronounce it – and, as Headley explains, that same word is used to describe Beowulf and his three antagonists: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon.

“In the early English translations it was translated for Beowulf as ‘hero’ and for Grendel as ‘monster,’ and for Grendel’s mother as ‘wretch of a woman’ or ‘hag,’ ” Headley says. “But it’s the same word.”

(19) ROBO FETCH. They’re going from viral video to market: “Boston Dynamics Is Gearing Up to Produce Thousands of Robot Dogs”.

Boston Dynamics, maker of uncannily agile robots, is poised to bring its first commercial product to market — a small, dog-like robot called the SpotMini.

The launch was announced in May, and founder Marc Raibert recently said that by July of next year, Boston Dynamics will be producing the SpotMini at the rate of around 1,000 units per year.

The broader goal, as reported by Inverse, is to create a flexible platform for a variety of applications. According to Raibert, SpotMini is currently being tested for use in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance applications.

The SpotMini moves with the same weirdly smooth confidence as previous experimental Boston Dynamics robots with names like Cheetah, BigDog, and Spot.

(20) BIG CONSTRUCTION. BBC covers “The mega-machines helping China link the world”. Includes an ordinary diagram, and animations of two extraordinary track layers.

China is creating a network of ambitious land- and sea-based transport links to connect its booming economy with those of Europe and Africa. And it’s wasting no time – designing incredible bespoke construction machines to get the job done fast.

President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, aims to connect two-thirds of the world’s population across 70 countries through a network of land links (the “belt”) and sea routes (the “road”).

Officials talk about lifetime investments worth trillions of dollars, sourced from banks, participating countries and the Chinese government.

The scheme is not without controversy. Critics point out that it burdens poor countries with billions of dollars of Chinese debt, and dismiss it as a projection of Chinese foreign policy…

(21) THE ORVILLE AT COMIC-CON. The Season 2 Trailer for The Orville debuted at Comic-Con.

The Orville: Follows the crew of the not-so-functional exploratory ship in the Earth’s interstellar fleet, 400 years in the future.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/19/18 And Then There Were 770

(1) DRAGON AWARDS. July 20 is the deadline to nominate for Dragon Con’s Dragon Awards. If you’re ever going to do it now would be a good time…. If you’re not, no hurry!

(2) “JUST WEAR CLOTHES, HONEY.” That’s the advice I got the time I called Arthur Bryant’s ribs place to ask if they had a dress code. I follow the same advice when I go to the Hugos.

(3) TOR TAKES LIBRARIANS BY SURPRISE. And not in a good way: “Tor Scales Back Library E-book Lending as Part of Test”Publishers Weekly has the story.

After years of relatively little change in the library e-book market, there has finally been some movement—unfortunately, librarians say, it is movement in the wrong direction. Leading Sci-Fi publisher Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, has announced that, beginning with July 2018 titles, newly released e-books, will be no longer be available to libraries for lending until four months after their retail on sale date.

In a statement to libraries through their vendors, Macmillan officials said the new embargo was part of “a test program” (although an “open ended” test, the release states) to assess the impact of library e-book lending on retail sales. But the statement goes on to say that the publisher’s “current analysis on eLending indicates that it is having a direct and adverse impact on retail eBook sales,” and that Tor will work with library vendors to “develop ongoing terms that will best support Tor’s authors, their agents, and Tor’s channel partners.”

…On July 19, American Library Association president Loida Garcia-Febo issued the following statement:

“The American Library Association and our members have worked diligently to increase access to and exposure for the widest range of e-books and authors. Over years, ALA made great strides in working with publishers and distributors to better serve readers with increasingly robust digital collections. We remain committed to a vibrant and accessible reading ecosystem for all.

I am dismayed now to see Tor bring forward a tired and unproven claim of library lending adversely affecting sales. This move undermines our shared commitment to readers and writers—particularly with no advance notice or discussion with libraries. In fact, Macmillan references its involvement with the Panorama Project, which is a large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales. For this reason, this change by Tor—literally on the heels of Panorama’s launch—is particularly unexpected and unwelcome.

“The ALA calls for Macmillan to move just as quickly to reverse its course and immediately lift the embargo while the Panorama Project does its work.”

(4) BIG REBOOTS TO FILL. Somebody thought this would be a good idea: “‘In Search Of’: Zachary Quinto Follows in Leonard Nimoy’s Footsteps… Again”.

We’re all very used to revivals and reboots these days but with the return of iconic sci-fi/mystery series In Search Of , one big reason to celebrate (besides its launch on the History Channel) is that actor Zachary Quinto is a part of this project.

Quinto, who first became known to TV fans for his role as the villainous Sylar on the original run of NBC’s Heroes, leapt to greater heights of fame in 2009 when he took over the role of the most famous Vulcan in the galaxy, Spock, in the updated Star Trek big-screen franchise. Of course, Spock was first played by Leonard Nimoy in the 1960s television series and, yes, Nimoy later hosted In Search Of.

 

(5) DROPPED IN POTTER’S FIELD. There’s an open question about why this happened: “London erects 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue to commemorate ‘Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary”.

They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should build a 25-foot replica of Jeff Goldblum.

Londoners and tourists alike were puzzled Wednesday morning to find a statue of Goldblum, his shirt unbuttoned in a recreation of his famous “Jurassic Park” pose, staring seductively at them from the banks of the River Thames near Tower Bridge.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 19 – Benedict Cumberbatch, 42. Some of his sort-of genre and definitely genre roles include Stephen Hawking in HawkingThe Hobbit films as a certain cranky dragon, Star Trek into DarknessDoctor Strange, Sherlock, and possibly my fav role potentially by him as the voice of the title character in the forthcoming animated The Grinch film.
  • Born July 19 – Jared Padalecki, 36. Best known for his role as Sam Winchester on Supernatural, and not surprisingly, Supernatural: The Animation.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) OKAY. Mad Genius Club columnist Kate Paulk makes everything as clear as she usually does in “Eschew Claytons Diversity”.

…Take the Mad Geniuses. We’re Odds. We don’t fit in. But every last one of us fails to fit in in a different way than every other one of us….

(9) UNDER NEWTON’S TREE. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is getting to dislike F&SF’s 1963 incarnation almost as much as he loathes Analog“[July 18, 1963] Several bad apples (August Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.  

I’ve discussed recently how this appears to be a revival period for science fiction what with two new magazines having been launched and the paperback industry on the rise.  I’ve also noted that, with the advent of Avram Davidson at the helm of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the editorial course of that digest has…changed.  That venerable outlet has definitely doubled down on its commitment to the esoteric and the literary.

Has Davidson determined that success relies on making his magazine as distinct from all the others as possible?  Or do I have things backwards?  Perhaps the profusion of new magazines is a reaction to F&SF’s new tack, sticking more closely to the mainstream of our genre.

All I can tell you is that the latest edition ain’t that great, though, to be fair, a lot of that is due to the absolutely awful Heinlein dross that fills half of the August 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction.  See for yourself…

“Heinlein dross” turns out to be code for an installment of the novel Glory Road.

(10) SPACE SAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy] An exploratory project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville AL is examining metamaterials as the basis for a solar sail for CubeSat propulsion. The Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) is being developed by Marshall and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a candidate secondary payload to launch with EM-1 the first uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System.

NEA Scout would be a robotic mission to fly by an NEA and return data “from an asteroid representative of NEAs that may one day be human destinations.” The asteroid chosen will depend on the launch date; the current target is  1991 VG. Though this is still only a candidate mission (and thus may never happen), NASA explains the mission like this:

Catching a ride on EM-1, NEA Scout will deploy from SLS after the Orion spacecraft is separated from the upper stage. Once it reaches the lunar vicinity, it will perform imaging for instrument calibration. Cold gas will provide the initial propulsive maneuvers, but the NEA Scout’s hallmark solar sail will leverage the CubeSat’s continual solar exposure for efficient transit to the target asteroid during an approximate two-year cruise.

Once it reaches its destination, NEA Scout will capture a series of low (50 cm/pixels) and high resolution (10 cm/pixels) images to determine global shape, spin rate, pole position, regional morphology, regolith properties, spectral class, and for local environment characterization.

Popular Science article looks a little closer at the use of metamaterials for the sail, talking with Dr. Grover Swartzlander (Rochester Institute of Technology) who is the lead for the project.

The metamaterial Swartzlander is proposing would have several advantages over the reflective materials of the past. Swartzlander’s sails would have lower heat absorption rates due to their diffractive nature which would scatter solar rays, and the ability to re-use what Swartzlander told NASA was “the abundant untapped momentum of solar photons” to fly through the cosmos.

Swartzlander is leading an exploratory study through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. With nine months and $125,000, his research team will work on a NASA satellite called the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout for short. A robotic reconnaissance mission, NEA Scout is a CubeSat meant to explore asteroids. NEA Scout would be NASA’s first craft to be powered by sails.

(11) THEY SWORE A MIGHTY OATH. No “Second Variety”? “AI Innovators Take Pledge Against Autonomous Killer Weapons”.

The Terminator‘s killer robots may seem like a thing of science fiction. But leading scientists and tech innovators have signaled that such autonomous killers could materialize in the real world in frighteningly real ways.

During the annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm on Wednesday, some of the world’s top scientific minds came together to sign a pledge that calls for “laws against lethal autonomous weapons.”

“… we the undersigned agree that the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine,” the pledge says. It goes on to say, “… we will neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.”

The moniker “autonomous weapons” doesn’t draw the same fear or wonder as a killer robot, but weapons that can function without human oversight are a real concern.

(12) NOT THE SIZE OF A PLANET. No one will ever be wondering this about sff fans. Gizmodo’s article “Did Neanderthals Go Extinct Because of the Size of Their Brains?” follows up a paper in Scientific Reports and a theory that Homo neanderthalensis may have gone extinct because their brains — though larger than that of Homo sapiens — had a cerebellum that was proportionately underdeveloped relative to H. sapiens.

Indeed, though scientists have many Neanderthal skulls to work with, none of them contain actual brains, making it difficult to know what the inside of their heads actually looked like. The next best option, therefore, is to look at their fossilized skulls and try to figure out the shape, size, and orientation of the Neanderthal brain.

To do this, Ogihara’s team created virtual three-dimensional “casts” of brains using data derived from the skulls of four Neanderthals and four early modern humans (the skulls used in the study dated from between 135,000 and 32,000 years ago). This allowed the researchers to reconstruct and visualize the 3D structure of the brain’s grey and white matter regions, along with the cerebrospinal fluid regions. Then, using a large dataset from the Human Connectome Project, specifically MRI brain scans taken of more than 1,180 individuals, the researchers modeled the “average” human brain to provide a kind of baseline for the study and allow for the comparative analysis.

Using this method, the researchers uncovered “significant” differences in brain morphology. Even though Neanderthals had larger skulls, and thus larger brain volume overall, H. sapiens had a proportionately larger cerebellum, the part of brain involved in higher levels of thinking and action. Modern humans also featured a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum, which is tied to vision. Looking at these differences, the researchers inferred such abilities as cognitive flexibility (i.e. learning, adaptability, and out-of-the-box thinking), attention, language processing, and short-term and long-term memory. Homo sapiens, the researchers concluded, had better cognitive and social abilities than Neanderthals, and a greater capacity for long-term memory and language processing.

(13) FORTNITE. Brian Feldman, in “The Most Important Video Game on the Planet” in New York Magazine, looks at how Fortnite. since its introduction in July 2017, “has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence…obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people.”

Since it launched in July of last year, Fortnite has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence. The 100-player, last-man-standing video-game shooter is obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high-school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people. All this, not because of a major technical or graphical breakthrough, or for a groundbreaking work of narrative depth, but for, essentially, a simple, endlessly playable cartoon. On a colorful island peppered with abandoned houses, towns, soccer fields, food trucks, and missile silos, players don colorful costumes, drop out of a floating school bus, and begin constructing ramshackle forts that look like they’ve popped straight out of a storybook, before blowing each other to smithereens.

(14) TITANS. Official trailer —

TITANS follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find belonging in a gritty take on the classic Teen Titans franchise.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Lee, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/18 Behold A Pale Pixel, And Its Scroller’s Name Was Cat

(1) 100 BELOVED BOOKS. PBS’ series The Great American Read will air it’s “Fall Kick Off” on September 11. The eight-part series explores the power of reading, told through 100 favorite American novels as determined by a national survey.

Promotion for the series includes an incredible set of travel poster-style ads for some of the titles, many of them genre works, like these —

PBS also has created a downloadable reading checklist of the hundred titles [PDF file].

(2) STRAIGHT OUTTA SWEDEN. Simon Stålenhag’s paintings will be the inspiration for a TV series: “Amazon Orders Sci-Fi Series ‘Tales From the Loop’”.

Amazon has given a series order to “Tales From the Loop,” a science fiction drama from “Legion” writer Nathaniel Halpern. The project is a co-production with Fox 21 Television Studios.

“Tales From the Loop” is based on the art of, whose paintings blend elements of futuristic science fiction with images of rural life in the Sweden.

“Simon Stålenhag’s paintings are renowned for their vision of a not-too-distant, futuristic landscape. We are looking forward to bringing that to life and sharing it with our Prime Video audience,” said Albert Cheng, co-head of television, Amazon Studios.

(3) GALILEO WOULD BE IMPRESSED. National Geographic explains the discovery of “12 New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter”.

In a curveball of cosmic proportions, astronomers went looking for a hypothetical planet on the far fringes of our solar system, and instead found 12 new moons dancing around Jupiter.

To be clear, these moons are no Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system. They’re tiny, some barely a mile across, and they are tracing all kinds of weird paths around the giant world.

…Normally, spotting new moons around Jupiter is quite difficult. Anything small enough to still be hiding from our view is quite faint, and tracking those dim dots requires powerful telescopes that often have too small a field of view to capture the entire Jovian system. To make matters worse, Jupiter is quite bright, and its glare can obscure tiny moons.

But last year, the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Scott Sheppard and his colleagues were hunting a faraway planet rumored to orbit beyond Pluto—a planet so large its gravitational heft rearranges the orbits of smaller, distant objects. So, the team aimed a telescope at Chile’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory at the star fields surrounding our cosmic neighborhood, looking for faraway pinpricks of light moving in solar orbits.

(4) JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE COULD HAVE ROCKET ISSUES. The latest slips in the James Webb Space Telescope schedule have it launching no earlier than March 2021. The plan all along has been to use an Ariane 5 launch vehicle (in fact, key aspects of the JWST design were customized for the Ariane 5), which has a planned end of life in 2022. Ars Technica notes that any further slips in the JWST schedule could begin to threaten availability of the launcher. Quoting the article (emphasis added):

Back in 2015, when NASA formally reached an agreement with Arianespace to launch on the Ariane 5 rocket, the projected launch date was 2018. NASA partnered with the European Space Agency and its affiliated rocket company for the launch to keep costs down. Essentially, Europe provided a rocket in exchange for some of the observing time. The telescope’s massive heat shield was then designed to fold 12 times to fit within the Ariane 5’s payload fairing.

Last year […] the telescope’s launch date was delayed into 2019 […] [Now the] launch has since been delayed twice more: first into 2020 and then into 2021. The Ariane 5 can still launch during these years. Further delays, however, may prove problematic.
According to Alain Charmeau, who as the head of Ariane Group oversees a family of launch vehicles including the Ariane 5, European states have created a transition plan to the Ariane 6. A separate launch pad is being constructed at the European spaceport in French Guiana for the Ariane 6, and this will allow the Ariane 5 to continue flying for a few more years—but not indefinitely.

“One can back up the other one,” he told Ars. “We will have the Ariane 5 for at least until the end of 2022, but it’s not clear cut. If we need to have another launch in 2023, we can extend it, it is just a matter of maintaining the team and maintaining the infrastructure. But our plan today is to start Ariane 6 in 2020, and stop Ariane 5 at the end of 2022.”

(5) OVERLY FRESH PRINCE. Mashable reports “Will Smith tries to make out with Sophia the robot, and it does not go well”.

Budding YouTuber Will Smith isn’t afraid to churn out some weird content on his channel, including an attempt at getting frisky with a humanoid.

In his most recent clip, Smith sets himself on a date in the Cayman Islands with Sophia the robot, a humanoid robot from Hanson Robotics that uses artificial intelligence to interact with humans. After a few awkward moments and some burns from Sophia to Smith, he leans in for a kiss, and well, gets denied.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop debuted.
  • July 17, 1992 Honey, I Blew Up The Kid premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 17 – Donald Sutherland, 83. Genre roles in the Hunger Games films, Billion Dollar BrainInvasion of the Body Snatchers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, And the Salem’s Lot series to name a few.  His first genre role was apparently in the 1964 Castle of The Living Dead.
  • Born July 17 – David Hasselhoff, 66. Genre roles in the Knight Rider franchise, Nick Fury: Agent of Shield film, as the title characters in Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical, and in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2.
  • Born July 17 – Jason Clarke, 49. Roles in the now filming version of Pet Sematary, Farscape series, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and it  First Man, a look at the life of Neil Armstrong.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit is getting a lot of mileage from making puns on the name Space Force, like here and here.

(9) NOT JUST A PIE IN THE SKY IDEA. John King Tarpinian urged me to give you enough notice of the time and date when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the Moon — Friday, July 20 @ 7:56 p.m. PDT.  (3:56 a.m. GMT) – so you can plan your own ceremonial observance for the anniversary. John’s already been doing his for years – eating a Moon Pie.

(10) NO PROBLEM, THEY’RE GOING AT NIGHT. NASA touts its “Parker Solar Probe: Humanity’s First Visit to a Star”.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be the first-ever mission to “touch” the Sun. The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the Sun’s atmosphere about 4 million miles from our star’s surface. Launch is slated for summer 2018.

  • Launch Window: July 31 – Aug.  19, 2018
  • Launch Site: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
  • Launch Vehicle: Delta IV-Heavy with Upper Stage

In order to unlock the mysteries of the Sun’s atmosphere, Parker Solar Probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. The spacecraft will fly through the Sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.8 million miles to our star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before. (Earth’s average distance to the Sun is 93 million miles.)

Flying into the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, for the first time, Parker Solar Probe will employ a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind. It will also make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment that affect life and technology on Earth.

(11) SHUT UP AND KEEP SWIMMING. “Rising Seas Could Cause Problems For Internet Infrastructure” — bad enough that your home is gone — you won’t be able to blog about it either.

…The dense network of cables that make up the Internet is likely to be inundated with saltwater as sea levels rise, a new analysis suggests, putting thousands of miles of critical infrastructure along U.S. coastlines underwater in the next 15 years.

“It is actually the wires and the hardware that make the Internet run,” explains Ramakrishnan Durairajan, a computer scientist at the University of Oregon and an author of the research. The analysis estimates under the most severe model for sea level rise that more than 4,000 miles of fiber optic cable along U.S. coastlines will be underwater by the early 2030s.

The Internet is particularly susceptible to flooding because data travels through underground cables buried along roadways and through tunnels. While the massive deep sea cables that carry data under the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are designed to be permanently underwater, other infrastructure such as copper wiring and power stations are not.

(12) LONG BEFORE THE EARL OF SANDWICH. “Prehistoric bake-off: Scientists discover oldest evidence of bread” — previous evidence was 9,000 years.

Scientists have discovered the earliest known evidence of bread-making, from a 14,000-year-old dig site.

The bake would have looked like a flatbread and tasted a bit like today’s multi-grain varieties, they say.

Our ancestors may have used the bread as a wrap for roasted meat. Thus, as well as being the oldest bread, it may also have been the oldest sandwich.

The find, from the Black Desert in Jordan, pushes back the first evidence for bread by more than 5,000 years.

(13) ROOTS. Popular Mechanics doubts these will ever be on the market, though — “Scientists Find ‘Quadrillions’ of Tons of Diamonds Beneath Earth’s Surface”.

Deep beneath the Earth’s surface, there’s a gigantic cache of diamonds, according to new research. While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever be able to obtain these diamonds, knowing that they’re there helps us learn more about our own planet and what it’s made of.

To discover what lies beneath the surface, scientists can’t simply look with their eyes. Instead, they use sound waves and listen. Unlike light, sound can travel through solid rock, and by listening closely scientists can learn a great deal about what the inside of the Earth is like.

Typically, these sounds come from earthquakes or volcanic explosions, and by studying the resulting seismic waves scientists can determine what materials lie underground. One group of scientists was studying a strange anomaly that occurs when these seismic waves pass through underground structures called cratonic roots. These structures are ancient, highly dense rock formations shaped like inverted mountains that lie hundreds of miles beneath most tectonic plates.

Because these rock formations are so dense, sound waves move much faster through thes cratonic roots than through most other rock. But for some reason, many of the seismic waves measured over the last few decades move even faster than predicted. A group of scientists, led by MIT scientist Ulrich Faul, suspected that some material inside the cratonic roots was speeding up these waves.

(14) DON’T WASTE THE OPPORTUNITY. NASA wants your help taking out the trash. Well, “you” if you’re an aerospace development company. SYFY Wire has an article (If we’re going to go to Mars, this is how we’ll have to deal with trash) discussing NASA’s initiative to get industry help with the trash issue:

NASA wants to figure out how to get rid of all those freeze-dried food wrappers (and everything else) way before we land on Mars or venture into deep space. The space agency just announced that it will be seeking concepts for trashing space garbage through its NextSTEP program, so they can find new ways to compact and process trash so the waste situation.

Using the ISS, which sees literally tons of trash every year, as a testing ground for methods of waste management is the most obvious way to prepare for extended stays away from Earth. The floating space station already receives around 13 tons of supplies from cargo resupply missions every year, and periodically sends around 2 tons back to Earth in a commercial supply vehicle that either brings it to the surface or lets it burn up in the atmosphere.

NASA’s announcement (NASA Seeks New Ways to Handle Trash for Deep Space Missions) says that development will be in two phases, but companies must be prepared to invest some of their own funds. Quoting the NASA announcement:

In Phase A, selected companies will create a concept trash compaction and processing system, conduct design reviews with NASA, and validate concepts through prototype ground demonstrations. Throughout this phase, the companies may request use of NASA facilities to conduct subsystem tests. In Phase B, a flight unit will be developed to demonstrate a system aboard the space station as early as 2022.

Inherent with the NextSTEP partnership model, private companies must contribute their own corporate resources toward the development of their trash compaction and processing systems. In this case, responders are required to show a minimum of 20 percent contribution toward the overall development cost, or 10 percent for small businesses.

(15) STRAIGHT ARROW. Robin Hood , in theaters November 21.

Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) a war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander (Jamie Foxx) mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown in a thrilling action-adventure packed with gritty battlefield exploits, mind-blowing fight choreography, and a timeless romance.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/12/18 Pixels’ Red Glare, The Scrolls Bursting In Air

(1) SFPA HANDLES CODE OF CONDUCT ISSUE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) notified members via Facebook that member Bruce Boston has been suspended for a Code of Conduct violation. SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra wrote:

Following a 7-day review and conferral with the SFPA Executive Committee, SFPA member Bruce Boston has been suspended for six months from commenting on the Facebook Group and Yahoo Groups listserv for violation of the SFPA Code of Conduct, regarding egregious remarks beginning on July 4th, 2018, and a failure to retract those remarks in a timely manner. He remains a member of the SFPA and retains all honors and titles. This suspension remains in effect until December 31st, 2018.

In light of this incident, we wish to share the Code of Conduct, which the Executive Committee created and implemented in July 2017. It was shared on the fora, to which it applies, but was not transmitted to every member and new members may be unaware.

Please click on the blue button below to read the document about our expectations of conduct on our forums, Facebook and Yahoo Groups. The rules as well as the consequences for not following them are detailed therein.

To read the SFPA Code of Conduct, click here. [Dropbox file]

SFPA Grand Master Bruce Boston, in comments on a SFPA Facebook group post about the Rhysling winners, publicly insinuated that 2018 short poem Rhysling winner, Mary Soon Lee, must have been the beneficiary of vote stuffing because in his view her poem was unworthy of the honor. As of this writing, Boston’s and others’ comments are still accessible by nonmembers of the group. Here is a screenshot from near the beginning of the exchange.

(2) W76 BUSINESS MEETING SCHEDULE. On his blog, Kevin Standlee previewed his Worldcon article – “Business Meeting & Site Selection Schedules at Worldcon 76”.

For those of you trying to arrange your schedule for Worldcon 76 around the WSFS Business Meeting and Site Selection (as I am rather forced to do by the nature of running the WSFS division), here’s the current state of our plans. For those of you who are veterans of the process, this may all sound boring, repetitive, and obvious, but based on the questions I’ve fielded, there are members — including people interested in WSFS Business — who do not know this stuff.

Linda Deneroff also has posted the start of the agenda for Worldcon 76. You can find it on the Business Meeting page. Click on the “Agenda” link.

(3) ROBOT HOTEL. Grant Imahara (perhaps best know for his former gig on Mythbusters) visits a robot hotel in this Popular Science article (“Mouser Electronics: Generation Robot”). No, not a hotel for robots, but one staffed by robots. It sounds like Henn Na Hotel is trying to avoid — at least in part — the Uncanny Valley. Quoting the article:

Imagine checking into a hotel and handing your luggage to a bellhop, but not seeing another human besides other guests. That’s the reality at Henn Na Hotel in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture, where robots have taken over. Robot enthusiast Grant Imaharavisits the hotel to see how the hospitality business can succeed without humans.

During his stay, Grant is surprised by the non-humanoid robot he meets at the check-in desk. Maybe he should have known—Henn Na Hotel loosely translates to “strange hotel” in Japanese. Naomi Tomita, the hotel’s Chief Technology Officer, says that using non-humanoid robots can make the interactions less awkward. The hotel encourages guests to chat with the robots while they work. A robot checks Grant’s coat, and a robotic trolley takes his luggage to his hotel room.

 

(4) MORE FROM BODLEIAN. Nicholas Whyte tweeted an image from the Bodleian’s Tolkien exhibition.

(5) MOVIE POSTER AUCTION. Heritage Auctions told subscribers that sf movie posters will be featured in its forthcoming Movie Posters Auction July 28-29 in Dallas. A Star Trek poster by illustrator Bob Peak is expected to compete for top-lot honors.


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by Bob Peak (Paramount, 1987) (est. $40,000-80,000) is the largest and arguably the most detailed of all Star Trek posters designed by Peak. A renowned commercial artist whose greatest acclaim comes from his developments in the design of modern movie posters, Peak’s artwork has appeared on the cover of numerous magazines, including Time, TV Guide and Sports Illustrated . The brilliant color used for the evening sky of San Francisco offers stark contrast to the Klingon Bird of Prey flying just over the Golden Gate Bridge. The 40-by-57-1/2-inch poster is done on illustration board mounted on foamcore, is signed by Peak and comes with a gold frame.

“Bob Peak was a popular and important movie poster artist who produced a number of posters for various Star Trek films, and this is as dramatic as any of them,” Heritage Auctions Vintage Posters Director Grey Smith said. “His subtle portraits of several of the film’s primary characters offer an extraordinary balance to the bold images of the sunset and the Bird of Prey. This poster is a large and striking image that would be a significant addition to any collection.”

Science fiction fans also will be drawn to The War of the Worlds (Paramount, 1953). Half Sheet (22″ X 28″) Style B (est. $20,000-40,000), a rare Style B half sheet that is one of the most iconic and elusive images in the genre. Featuring Martian warship imagery not included in many other posters for the original release of George Pal’s powerful adaptation of H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel.

…Widely considered to be among the greatest film posters of all time, a Things to Come (United Artists, 1936) one sheet (est. $15,000-30,000) was inspired by another science fiction film based on another H.G. Wells-inspired screenplay. The film is based on his 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come and his 1931 non-fiction The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. Among the always-rare posters for this early sci-fi epic, this one stands out in part because of the 1930s deco-designed version of the future.

(6) RECORD SETTING. Seattle’s Sub Pop Records is taking preorders on Bandcamp for The Rick And Morty Soundtrack, a 26-track collection of music from the animated series on Cartoon Network. Two vinyl LP packages (“Deluxe” and “Loser”) and a digital version are available.

This release is the first official collection of music from Rick and Morty. All formats feature 26 songs, 24 of which are from the first 3 seasons of the show, and 18 of which were composed by Ryan Elder specifically for the show. The album also includes songs by Mazzy Star, Chaos Chaos, Blonde Redhead, and Belly, all of which have been featured in the show, as well as two new tunes from Chad VanGaalen and Clipping inspired by the show. The box set includes a special bonus track on a 7”.

(7) JOHNSON OBIT. Somebody has to think these things up, you know — “Alan Johnson, 81, ‘Springtime for Hitler’ Choreographer, Dies”. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times:

Alan Johnson, a choreographer renowned for his campy movie collaborations with Mel Brooks on the “Springtime for Hitler” goose-steppers-and-showgirls extravaganza in “The Producers” and the “Puttin’ On the Ritz” tap dance in “Young Frankenstein,” died on Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Mr. Johnson had danced in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story” and begun his career as a choreographer when he started working with Mr. Brooks, whom he had already met through a friend, the lyricist Martin Charnin. Mr. Brooks, best known at the time for his work with Carl Reiner on the “2000 Year Old Man” records, was developing “The Producers,” about a producer who schemes with his accountant to create a certain Broadway flop and steal the money invested in it by unsuspecting old women.

…In his role as producer, Mr. Brooks gave Mr. Johnson the chance to direct two films. The first, “To Be or Not to Be” (1983), was a remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 comedy with Mr. Brooks and Ms. Bancroft in the roles played in the original by Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. Three years later Mr. Johnson directed “Solarbabies” (1986), a science-fiction story about roller-skating orphans fighting for a solution to a worldwide water shortage. It was widely panned.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • That’s some potion in Bizarro.
  • Frazz asks how a reader can like wildly disparate writers.
  • Bliss contains a space navigation tip.

(10) MOVIE AD ADAPTATIONS. These cat pictures may not display properly here, however, they are certainly worth clicking through to see.

(11) ANCIENT MONUMENT. Science journal Nature covers the “Mystery of buried children at German ‘Stonehenge’”.

Scientists scrutinize monumental complex of ditches and posts built more than 4,000 years ago.

As prehistoric Britons gathered at Stonehenge, people living in what is now Germany were erecting their own grand monument: a complex of nested circular ditches, pits and rows of posts, interspersed with the remains of women and children, who might have been human sacrifices…

(12) GRIST FOR THE MILL. Sean T. Collins argues “The only good online fandom left is Dune” at The Outline.

Beyond that, Dune is not a corporate cash cow, and being a fan doesn’t carry with it that icky feeling you’re doing an unpaid PR internship for Disney or AT&T Time Warner. You’re not being cultivated when you make a Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim Appreciation Thread, the way you are when you do something similar for, like, Harley Quinn or Groot. Nor are you helping billionaires whitewash their crimes if you point out politically positive aspects of the series, like its environmentalism or its bone-deep skepticism of leader cults. People who quite reasonably respond favorably to long-overdue representation of non-white-dudes in movies like The Last Jedi and Black Panther have to grapple with stuff like Marvel teaming up with defense contractors Northrop Grumman, or its CEO Ike Perlmutter being a noted Trump supporter.

(13) WHERE ROCKS WERE BANGED TOGETHER. BBC summarizes an item from Nature: “Earliest evidence of humans outside Africa”.

Scientists say they’ve found the earliest known evidence of a human presence outside Africa.

Stone tools discovered in China suggest primitive humans – or a close relative – were in the region as early as 2.12 million years ago.

They are about 270,000 years older than the previous earliest evidence, which consists of bones and tools from Dmanisi in Georgia.

The research, by a Chinese-British team, appears in the journal Nature.

The stone artefacts were discovered at Shangchen on a plateau in northern China.

(14) HOO-RAY. A Gizmodo writer is overwhelmed: “The World’s First Full-Color, 3D X-rays Are Freaking Me Out”.

A New Zealand company called Mars Bioimaging has developed a new type of medical imaging scanner that works in a similar fashion, but borrows technology developed for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to produce far more detailed results. The Medipix3 chip works similar to the sensor in your digital camera, but it detects and counts the particles hitting each pixel when a shutter opens….

It will be years before the new Spectral CT scanner receives all the clearances and approvals it needs so that it can be used in hospitals and clinics. But it’s well past the research stages at this point, and clinical trials are expected to get underway in New Zealand in the coming months.

So (posits Daniel Dern), it’s no longer too dark inside a dog to read?

(15) ACTION FIGURE REVIVAL. SYFY Wire makes note of several new lines of action figures coming soon from a company known for them in the 70’s and 80’s (“Mego toys is staging a comeback with new line of action figures from DC, Star Trek, and more”). The figures will be exclusive to Target and are being debuted at San Diego Comic-Con. They’ll appear in stores a little later this year.

Quoting the SYFY Wire article:

One of the earliest pioneers in the world of action figures is prepping a nostalgic resurrection, promoting a new line of toys at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con […]

Mego Corp., the company that innovated some of the earliest cross-merchandising action figure toys for cartoon, comics, and pop culture fans throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, is launching a new line of figures based on characters from DC, Star Trek, Firefly, Charmed, The Wizard of Oz, and more […]

Quoting the Target website:

Ready for a blast from the past? Toymaker Mego and industry legend Marty Abrams, co-founder and CEO of Mego Corporation, are recreating the company’s famous action figure line, and Target will be the exclusive retailer. The new line of collectibles hits stores and Target.com July 29, but fans will get a first look next week during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con—one of the largest gatherings of comic, movie and science fiction fans in the world….

Target’s exclusive line of Mego collectibles will be available in stores and online July 29 at prices ranging from $14.99 to $29.99. Check out our full assortment of collectibles at Target stores nationwide and Target.com.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]